Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | February 17, 2019

Old friends, new job, new adventure

As you can tell from the headline — or if you follow me on social media or are a friend or family member — you’ll know that my second stint at the Minneapolis Star Tribune will soon come to an end. My employer from 1991-2011 and again since May of 2017 has been a great source of joy, frustration (it’s a job, after all) and friendship. Those deep connections led me to a new opportunity, which I’ll tell you about in a second.

The journey to this new job started in early December when I received a text message from Chris Snow, who is the director of hockey analysis for the Calgary Flames. Chris had a job lead and he wanted to tell me about it.

A bit of back story, first. The Flames, for the uninitiated, are one of the best teams in the National Hockey League and Chris is one of the reasons why. In fact, he was called one of hockey’s “40 under 40” in a story in the web-based sports website The Athletic.

But long before Chris was a hockey analytics star, he was a sports writer for the Star Tribune. Back in August of 2003, we hired him to cover the Minnesota Wild a couple of months after he had graduated from Syracuse University. During the franchise’s first three seasons, we had veteran NHL reporter Tom Jones as the beat guy. When Tom moved back to Florida, we decided to take a chance on an impressive, engaging fella from New England who blew us away with his enthusiasm and smarts. I remember the exact moment I knew he was the right man for the job.

It was a warm afternoon (I’m thinking late May, early June perhaps) and I was reading through resumes and clips on the back porch of our home in St. Paul. All the prospective hockey writers were impressive and experienced, and many were excited about covering a team that had a passionate following in Minnesota. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the essence of the opening salvo of Chris’ cover letter. “I know you’re going to look at my resume and conclude I’m too young for this job. You’d be wrong.” It wasn’t exactly that, but it was short, to the point and brimming with confidence. I knew right then he would be great. I love brashness, but Chris also had the goods to back it up.

(An aside: This is the point in the story where my wife, who knows how to tell a story her own self, would urge me to get to the point. Preamble, preamble, preamble. Anyway, I just wanted to offer a bit of history before I leaped ahead 15-plus years.)

So in December, I got that text from Chris about a job. He had been talking to Craig Custance, the editor in chief for U.S. NHL coverage at The Athletic (there’s a Canadian editor in chief, too, of course). Craig had mentioned to Chris that The Athletic was looking for editors for some new jobs and Chris told him about me. And that’s when the wheels started turning.

I polished up my resume. Chris wrote a sweet recommendation letter (I mean, he works in analytics but the guy can still write!). Then Michael Russo, who replaced Chris at the Star Tribune as Wild beat reporter and then left in 2017 to become the flagship hire of The Athletic Minnesota site, wrote a letter. (This where I pause to say that I don’t think ANY paper in America can claim to have hired three better hockey writers than Tom Jones, Chris Snow and Michael Russo in succession.)

And soon I was interviewing for the job of NHL Enterprise Editor. After five long and interesting phone interviews over the course of five or six weeks, I was offered the job and I accepted. Boom. Life comes at you fast and you must seize opportunity when it arises. As with my first foray working for a fledgling sports-only entity at The National Sports Daily, I’m thrilled to be joining a team of some of the most talented and experienced and accomplished people in the business.

Unlike The National (read the story I linked above), it feels like The Athletic has a plan that attacks the business side of things as fiercely as it tackles editorial challenges. That’s my hope, anyway.

And while I am excited about this new professional challenge (I start March 4), I leave behind some really special people. Many of the folks I worked with the first time around at the Star Tribune were there when I returned. They have been good friends and will remain so. But even in the short time I’ve been back, I was lucky enough to work alongside and make some wonderful new friends. Young, talented, motivated, engaged journalists who have bright futures and unbelievable talent. My fondness for them is real and I hope we remain friends in the months and years ahead.

And I hope at some point in the future I get the chance to pay forward Chris Snow’s kindness. Because if there’s one thing I know about this life, it’s this: We are all in this together. Chris and I shared a working relationship for three years, but the heartbeat of our connection remains strong 10-plus years later. We’ve traveled wildly different paths and are separated by both many miles and many years. But friendship and professional kinship are powerful things. Nurture them and they will nurture you.

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Responses

  1. WOW! Hooray for you, Mark — this is so exciting!! Congratulations to you and Melody. The adventure continues!


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