While I’m coming up on my one year anniversary and my hundredth post with The Pink Puck, I wanted to do something a little different. So as my 100th article for the site (and just a couple weeks from my 1 year anniversary), I thought I would take a moment to write an open letter about myself and my main focuses for the site. This is something really different than anything I’ve done before, so bear with me. It’s a lot different to try and write about yourself than to interview a hockey player and tell his story.

I’ve been an AHL hockey fan since I was 6. Now, I’m in my 19th season of attending AHL games. Things have obviously changed over the years, but I still love the game and more importantly, the league. A lot of people don’t understand why I opt to stick with the AHL instead of the NHL; I get the question a lot when I’m talking to people about being an AHL writer with The Pink Puck. Don’t get me wrong, I love the NHL too. I love hockey at any level. I know the NHL is the tops in terms of talent. But, there’s something about AHL hockey that’s always going to pull  my loyalty back.

I grew up a little under an hour west and slightly north of Boston. Most people assume that means that I grew up a Bruins fan. But, for 18 of the 19 seasons I’ve been going to hockey games, there has been an AHL team in Worcester, MA which is less than half an hour away from where I grew up. It was easier to get to those games, less expensive, and the atmosphere was usually more kid friendly. My parents loved it and so did I.

There’s just something about AHL hockey that I can never really explain to someone who has never been to a game. Players in a lot of cases are fighting to improve and to show that they have what it takes to make the NHL. That drive and dedication can be exciting to see. You also get the chance to see rising stars. I couldn’t tell you how many players I’ve seen in the AHL over the years that have gone on to have success in the NHL. But, I can tell you there have been some big names. Some of the players I’ve seen in this area include Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Eric Staal (during the 04-05 lockout). That’s only a fraction and I mostly only get to see the teams in the Eastern Conference of the AHL these days.

The talent of some of the players is undeniable, but the atmosphere is something else too. The crowds in the AHL are smaller and as a result you get more of a connection to the people around you. You get to know the people that sit around you game in and game out. Those people are definitely part of the experience. They are the people that keep things going when the team on the ice is skating through a rough patch. That’s another thing, you get a lot of fan loyalty in the AHL. That might be across hockey in general, but the core group of fans is loyal and keeps on coming to games even when the teams struggles. Sure, they’re going to grumble about the players that are struggling and they’re going to make fun of the team for all the bad plays. But, they’ll be there with their jerseys on just waiting for when the team turns it around.

I know it’s always controversial, but AHL hockey is also just flat out tougher. There are more fights. Whether or not you believe fighting has a place in hockey (I think it belongs in the AHL), you can’t say it isn’t exciting. I can’t count the number of games I’ve seen turn on a fight. One of your guys gets into it with another player, wins the fight, and then that gives momentum to the rest of the fights. But more than just the fighter, there’s more physical play. The play in the AHL can be a little slower and that paves the way for more hitting. It’s easier to catch up with other players. They’re more emphasis on that physicality.

When I was in my junior year of high school, my dad was the one who finally helped me realize there were careers in sports. It was something I had never considered before. Since then, though, it’s a thought that has never really left my mind. It’s the goal that I’m working towards. Then all I saw ahead of me was working my way towards being a sports agent, preferably for hockey because it’s my favorite sport. That’s something I’m still working towards and passionate about. My eyes are just a little more open to the opportunities now. I’m coming to the end of my first semester of law school and I’m more sure than ever that I want to pursue sports law.

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Jessica Higham and Winter Adams

It was also this love of all things hockey that allowed me to meet Winter Adams, Editor-in-Chief of The Pink Puck. It wasn’t long after meeting her that I started writing. I have to say, it was something that I had always thought would be cool. It was not something I ever thought I would end up doing. I thought since I had not done any internships with sports media in college, or even majored in something media related, it was something I would never get a chance to try. But, The Pink Puck is all about giving people a chance and that’s exactly what I had. When I joined the site, there were only four writers other than Winter and myself. It has grown a lot since then and I’m happy I’m able to be part of that.

I consider myself lucky that I found this opportunity to write for the site. I also consider myself lucky that Winter  trusted me enough to name me as her Associate Editor towards the end of last season. Working with AHL teams as an AHL fan has been really great. I understand the league and how things work. It’s a lot different from the NHL in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert but I would say with all the time I’ve spent at games, I might know more than your average person. You can ask any of my friends that aren’t hockey fans, I’m not free on the weekends much from October until April. It’s also been really great to get to work with the teams around the league and see how different teams function. I really value the connections I’m making.

So, now being almost a year in, I wanted to take a minute to look back at my time so far. Looking forward for the next year, I’m still going to be writing as often as I can while I’m in law school. I’m going to be trying to bring our readers new and exciting AHL content (and adding more writers to our AHL ranks). And I’m going to be continuing to spread the word about AHL hockey. If you have anything you’d like to see (or would like to get information about joining the AHL team at The Pink Puck), feel free to email me at jessica@thepinkpuck.com.

A New England girl, born and raised, Jessica Higham has grown up loving few things more than hockey. Although she has never considered herself to be a good skater, she fell in love with hockey back when boys still had cooties and that love has only grown since. She genuinely wishes she had been alive to enjoy ‘Miracle on Ice’ and considers it to be one of the greatest moments in US history. Nothing compares to the feeling of September coming and signaling the start of a new season, complete with a whole new set of ups and downs. After having been an avid reader and occasional writer, Jessica wanted to try putting the two loves together and writing about hockey. Aside from hockey, Jessica also loves music, going to concerts, animals, and walking on the beach. Email: jessica@thepinkpuck.com @JessicaHigham

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