Another Hockey-Blogging Pioneer Bids Farewell
John Fontana, co-founder of the Tampa Bay Lightning blog Raw Charge, recently announced his departure as managing general editor in part due to health reasons.
I discovered Johnny Fonts’ work in the midst of the NHL’s season-killing lockout of 2004-05. A devoted fan of the Lightning, he faithfully chronicled that club’s ups and downs for over 12 years. He was the guiding force behind Raw Charge, building it into a must-view blog for Lightning fans.
Fontana wasn’t shy about expressing his views on other notable league happenings. He also provided encouragement and assistance to aspiring bloggers whenever he could.
Though Fontana will still contribute occasional pieces to Raw Charge, he joins a growing list of hockey blogging pioneers who’ve either scaled back their work or left the blogging game for various reasons.
In 2004, hockey blogging was very much in its infancy. At that time, amateur scribes (like me) covering the NHL at that time built and maintained their own hockey sites. Few sites were devoted to serious, well-written hockey commentary.
That changed during the NHL’s nuclear winter. Covering the lockout on both my site and for FoxSports.com, I stumbled across a number of hockey blogs, many of them started up during the lockout. Some bloggers were budding sportswriters, others were simply fans. All of them were passionate about hockey, expressing their views on the lockout and its potential impact upon the NHL.
In addition to Fontana’s work, I discovered those of Tom Benjamin, James Mirtle, Mike Chen, Eric McErlain, Christy Hammond, Jes Golbez, Paul Kukla, PJ Swenson and Mark Stepneski. In the ensuing years, I also followed Greg Wyshynski, Jen Neale, Sean McIndoe, Ellen Etchingham, BD Gallof, John Hoven, Tyler Dellow, Jonathan Willis, Cassie McClellan, Dirk Hoag, Ed Cmar and many more.
The lockout, and the years immediately following it, was an exciting time for hockey blogging. It provided knowledgeable fans with an outlet for their views beyond chat rooms and message boards, enabling them to reach a larger audience. The best of the bunch provided an alternative view from that of mainstream media.
At first, bloggers were treated with disdain by some in the mainstream media. Over time, however, a number of them garnered more respect and even a measure of respect and acceptance.
In those early years, the hockey-blogging community was small but close-knit. We mentioned each others’ work, shared our favorites on our blogrolls and had discussions in each other’s comments sections. Sometimes the debates gotheated, but we largely maintained a healthy respect for each other and our work.
In the ensuring years, some moved on into the mainstream media. Others went from their private blogs to joining blogging communities such as SB Nation.
Many, like Fontana, left hockey blogging behind for various reasons. While they remain hockey fans, their lives became more complex, leaving them little time to continue blogging. While understandable, I miss their work and what they contributed to the hockey community.
Happy trails, Johnny Fonts. All the best, mon ami.