Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ten years of DGB

I just realized that this blog turned ten years old today.

My first thought, as is often case these days, was "Good lord I am getting so old." My second thought was that I should probably write something to mark the occasion. So that's this.

Ten years ago was an interesting time to start a hockey blog. Or more accurately, a Maple Leafs blog, since that's what this was before I cravenly sold out expanded my horizons. The Leafs had just fired John Ferguson Jr., we were in the middle of the whole "Muskoka Five" debacle, the Mats Sundin era was about to end and Brian Burke was a few months away from arriving. Meanwhile, Brendan Shanahan was scoring 20 goals for the Rangers, Lou Lamoriello was a Devil for life, and Auston Matthews was ten years old. It feels like a long time ago, because it was.

But that was the backdrop on a Friday afternoon when I wrote up the site's first ever post. It's not much – basically a quick reaction to the Leafs beating the Habs. The post is short, has a few attempts at jokes, and isn't very good. I'm pretty sure nobody read it.

That's pretty much how it went in the early days – anyone who's ever tried to create anything on the internet if familiar with that sinking feeling that you're just talking to yourself. But it was fun, and eventually a few things I tried ended up working well enough to attract actual readers. From there it was on to stuff like the flow chart, the game seven summary, and countless top secret transcripts. I spent an entire month writing about my all-time favorite player, dabbled in the parody music genre, and wrote a heartfelt post that ended with a poop joke that my kids still think is hilarious. A certain fake Twitter account probably helped along the way. So did countless bigger, better sites that were willing to offer a signal boost to an amateur.

Looking back, some of it still holds up well. An awful lot of it doesn't. But eventually, the audience got big enough that it led to the National Post, which led to Grantland, which led to Sportsnet and Vice and books and various other stops along the way. I got to be on the ice for two Stanley Cup celebrations and meet more than a few of my idols. Eventually, this became a full-time career. There are good days and bad days like any job, but on balance, it's been pretty great.

This is the part where I feel like I should impart some profound advice. At least once a month, I get an email from an aspiring writer who wants to follow the same path that I did, and I always feel like I always let them down with my response, which is basically this: Get really lucky. That's it. That's what I did. You have to have some talent and be willing to put in the work, but the key is to fluke your way into being in the right place at the right time and then have a bunch of very nice people help you for no real reason. That's the secret, as far as I've been able to tell.

So since I don't have much in the way of advice, I'll just say thanks. Some of you reading this are the same small group of people who were reading ten years ago. Some have come aboard along the way. Some of you just clicked a link to this post and have no idea what this is all about but have read this far hoping it's building to a payoff somewhere, and are slowly realizing that it is not. But I owe a huge thank you to anyone who's read anything I've ever put out there, and especially to anyone who's helped spread the word. So… thanks.

It's been an interesting ten years. I'd love to do this for ten more. The way the sports writing world works these days, I'm not sure any of us can look much further ahead than ten weeks. Either way, it's been and continues to be a fun ride. I hope you stick around for whatever comes next.

- Sean


  1. Congrats and Happy Birthday DGB

  2. Congrats Sean! Been there since the beginning. What a long, strange trip it's been.

    Are you still mad at Mats?

  3. I think the New York Times introduced me to you 7 or 8 years ago. Have followed your publishing travels and travails ever since. (RIP Grantland)

    One thing, I wish I could remember the exact wording of your original tagline.
    "Cautiously optimistic" was part of it. It summed up being Leafs fan perfectly.

    Hearty Congratulations and best wishes for the future

  4. Sean, when I found you on Grantland I was overjoyed that there was finally a humourous hockey writer. I spent hours on hours binging and rereading every article you’ve ever posted on Grantland, and the same applies to your post-Grantland articles. From being a small time Canadian writer to a big shot NYT writer, I have and will continue to follow you everywhere you go (not in real life though, I heard the weather back east is a bit frosty)

  5. Congrats; I have enjoyed your posts (even though I'm a Habs fan).

  6. Been reading religiously since Grantland and enjoy listening to you and Lozo rant

    Congrats on the milestone

  7. Haven't been around the full ten years, I don't think, but certainly most of it. I'm not even a Leafs fan - I just love your sense of humour.

    Congrats and keep going!

  8. The fake Burke twitter pulled me in and I've been following the hops from platform to platform ever since. Bought the book. Drank the juice. 10/10, will continue.

  9. While I do miss more the heavier comedy leanings of the original blog, the success you've had is a worthy trade off. At this point, with basically no time to watch hockey anymore, you are my entire source for hockey news and opinion and I am happy with that. Keep up the great work! To another 10 years! (Up until you join the Leafs organization in some capacity... that can happen for writers in hockey, right?)

  10. Thanks for all the lulz. Been here since the beginning. I wish twitter wasn't a toxic hell pit

  11. You had me at "Dammit, Pronger!".

  12. I wasn't here from the start so had to settle for going back and binge reading all of your blogs. Totally worth it as I'm still yet to find anything else on your level.

    So congrats Sean - may DGB long continue and may the NHL eventually see sense and implement the Gold plan.


  13. Been a fan since the Grantland days and’re what got me back into hockey as well as the Toronto maple leafs, I moved from Toronto to the states when I was a teen and I now live in Korea (I’m an officer in the USAF) and still follow you religiously! Happy bday and here’s to 50 more years!

  14. Congrats and here's hoping for 10+ years more! You started out putting a funny, sarcastic bent on the everyday plight of being a Leafs fan, and it was clear you truly got it. Then seeing that transition into a career writing about hockey overall...very deserving and I enjoy every minute of it! (though I do miss the collaborations with Bloge Salming. Was telling someone just the other day about the "By-FOOOOOO-U-G-Lien" video and I burst out laughing in the middle like a madman).

  15. Been a big fan for the last couple of years and I really enjoy your humor. Just really well written articles and I tell all my hockey friends about you. Keep doing what you are doing!

  16. Yeah, I became a fan with the awesome Olympic rap video a few years ago. Man, I laughed until I cried. If I see you in a bar around Ottawa, you've earned a beer.

  17. Sean, while there is certainly a bit of luck involved, I think your success comes from making your readers laugh, even when they want to cry. You are the only blogger I can forgive for consistently reminding us that the Caps choke, because I suppose it's possible someone, somewhere, doesn't know it. ;) Congratulations on your ten years and best wishes for many more. I recommend your blog to every hockey fan I know, and have always considered your early posts to be NSFW because they made me laugh so hard. Your tone has necessarily changed a bit as your audience and topics have expanded but you're still the only hockey blogger I read. Keep doing what you're doing! (PS There are a lot more Mikes these days, as you know, but I love that a commenter above mentioned that the original Mike is still an idiot. Fond memories).

  18. Was that "certain fake Twitter account" @NotPavelDatsyuk perchance? I think I found you right before the move to Grantland, but I don't know if that was how.

  19. Happy belated, DGB. Found you somewhere around the flow charts and pronger cameos. Still read everything you write and have enjoyed the podcast as well. Can't always stomach the comment sections, though... Thanks from bringing the wit, insight, sarcasm and such. I'll keep reading.

  20. Congrats Sean!

    Your writing has matured so much.

    It does not look like you are trying to be funny anymore, instead focusing on serious analysis of issues.

    I miss your jokes, but I guess it’s the evolution that some writers take. Please remember, it’s okay to be funny sometimes - don’t hide it, we all know it’s in you, just have to open up again.

    Well done.

  21. Congratulations Sean!

    I first discover you from your book.

    i am from Kuala Lumpur (*use google map*) and been watch hockey since Brett Hull 'skate-on-the-crease goal. Your book (and then of course this blog) give me different perspective about hockey (ice hockey we called it) and it makes me fall in love with the game more. The game is not being played here (Malaysia have national team but i just pretend it dont exist) and to be ice hockey fan and never been to Canada, people here think i am weird.

    SOmetimes it's so strange to find out that i am more knowledgeable in hockey than a few canadian i met at tourist spot in KL.

    Anyway, well done for 10 years anniversary. You should be proud that you promote Canada and hockey way much better than Canada and NHL.

    Cheers Sean. You should wear 10 years Anniversary patch on your t-shirt everyday for a year or two.

  22. Been a follower since the Grantland days, and you are by far my favorite hockey writer. Thanks for all the laughs and hockey history Sean!

  23. Thanks for your work! The Friday Grab Bags are a highlight.