Working for the Condors has its advantages. The hours aren’t one of them. But during the off-season it becomes like any other job – sit at your desk all day, leave work at 5:00, weekends off… But while it’s not as exciting as being here during the season with the constant flurry of activity, it has advantages in turning into a regular gig for that half of the year. Here are my favorites.
5. Actually WATCHING hockey for a change. Not only do I have more time to sit down and enjoy a game on TV once in a while, but I actually enjoy it. With everything going on outside of work in my daily life, honestly sitting down and watching a hockey game during Condors season feels like I’m bringing work home with me. I watch enough hockey every week of the season; not just games, but replays, highlights, practices, as well as watching other teams activities and burying my face in hockey stats every day. I don’t need to add NHL games to my list. Now that our season is done, I can relax and enjoy a game on my couch.
4. No Sunday/holiday phone calls from the coach. Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to the guy, but when the team’s on the road and he calls me on a Sunday night at 10:15 p.m., I know it’s not to chat about my day. It’s telling me I can’t go to bed yet and I probably have to get on my computer and book a flight. Or when it’s Christmas morning with the family and I see MATT O’DETTE come up on my caller ID, I know it’s a call I wished wasn’t happening. I spent almost 3 hours on the phone and in the office trying to get a couple Canadian guys back over the border into the States on Christmas morning. The call came before I could make my holiday dinner appetizer and open my 6 month old son’s first Christmas gifts. So it goes.
3. Update the media guide. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job every summer. I love tucking myself into the history of this team and after almost a decade in Condorstown I have so much of it stuck in my head. Going into my third season in Bakersfield I built the media guide, doubling it in size like you can only do after a team has been around for four or five years. Then when Jeremy Zager came to town in 2006-07, he doubled its size again, and after my return I made some changes as well and it has to be as inclusive as any document in the entire ECHL for recording a team’s history. You can find it on the website in PDF form under the media tab. Check it out for reliving Condors history and maybe also learning more if you’re a newcomer to Condorstown.
2. Start the “potential players” spreadsheet. It’s a top secret document I do every year. Few people know about it. Nobody sees it. I probably shouldn’t even be talking about it, it’s that top secret. When the coach gives me a name of a player he’s spoken to over the summer, that player’s name goes on it. If he didn’t trust me to not share the names that are on the list, he’d probably stop telling me names, and that would literally ruin my entire summer.
There are five categories on it: Signed, Offers, Try-Out, Potential, and No. By July there are usually about 50 players on it, including the previous season’s guys. By late August you can somewhat tell where our strong points are going to be. By September there are twice as many guys in the ‘NO’ category than the ‘Signed’ category. Guys move around, from ‘potential’ to the ‘offers’, from ‘potential’ to ‘no’, from ‘offers’ to ‘signed’… But watching that list build, and even watching it come apart while players sign elsewhere, gives you a whole new perspective on putting a team together. It’s hard to swallow when a guy we had on that “Offers” list ends up scoring an overtime game winner against you three months later. You tend to remember that stuff.
1. Vacation. Yes, getting away from it all. Sometimes it’s just for the weekend, which isn’t really easy during the season either (see #4 on why I feel like I always have to at least be within cell/internet range). But it’s not every job that prevents you from taking a week off for more than half the year. Basically, from September until a few weeks after the end of the season, getting out of Dodge for a week isn’t really an option. Even just taking a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving isn’t an option. Christmas to visit family? In 13 years in this business I’ve enjoyed Christmas dinner with one of my parents only once, and right afterward I had to drive home seven hours through a blizzard to work the next day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying when the vacation window opens during the off-season, it’s extra nice to fly through it, because it closes very quickly. And everyone needs to recharge their batteries. On the vaca wish list this summer: the city of my birth (Rochester, NY), Florida to visit the old man, and I’ve never been to Sacramento. I shall like to visit and give the folks in the capitol building a piece of my mind. I’ve also never been to the aquarium in Monterrey. I enjoy a nicely put together fish tank. And I would also like to go off the grid to the mountains once or twice, and maybe dip my toes in the Pacific on several occasions.
Ahhhh yes… the off-season is here, and it isn’t all bad.
Kevin Bartl is the Vice President of Communications and part of the broadcast team for the Condors, entering his 10th season with the team. His blog comes out every Tuesday, or whenever he feels like it. For not-always-hockey-related thoughts, follow him on twitter @KevinBartl.