To icenetwork, hail and farewell - and thanks

  Nick McCarvel (foreground, left) and I (the graybeard, middle), both working for icenetwork, in the crowd interviewing Gracie Gold   at the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

Nick McCarvel (foreground, left) and I (the graybeard, middle), both working for icenetwork, in the crowd interviewing Gracie Gold at the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

I had covered figure skating for 35 years – and, to that point, at 10 straight Winter Olympics - when I took a generous buyout in November 2015 from the Chicago Tribune because the paper’s management decided it no longer could afford to support the travel necessary for me to cover international sports the way I had for three decades.  The time was right for me to make that move, and I still have nothing but gratitude for the Tribune’s having allowed me to make international sports and the Olympics my news beat for so long.

But I hoped to continue getting paid for covering figure skating at least through the 2018 Winter Olympics.  I am forever grateful that, beginning in 2016, icenetwork provided me the chance to it, and I am disappointed that this figure skating website will soon be no more.

Becoming an icenetwork contributor allowed me to witness live and chronicle the rise to dominance of Russian women singles skaters; the unique environment coach Brian Orser and his team created at the Cricket Club in Toronto to help produce champions like Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez (and before them, Yuna Kim); the quad revolution in men’s skating and the emergence of a leading revolutionary, Nathan Chen.  It allowed me to bear journalistic witness to some of the greatest performances in skating history – among them, Fernandez’ free skate at the 2016 World Championships, Hanyu’s free skate at the 2017 worlds, Evgenia Medvedeva’s flawless skating at those 2017 worlds, Alina Zagitova’s two stunning, clean programs to win the 2018 Olympics, Chen’s history-making quads.

  I was on the scene early for icenetwork coverage at the 2018 Winter Games. (Jackie Wong photo)

I was on the scene early for icenetwork coverage at the 2018 Winter Games. (Jackie Wong photo)

My favorite moments in the past three skating seasons came from working with two indefatigable and talented icenetwork colleagues, editor Mickey Brown and writer Lynn Rutherford, in South Korea at what was my 11th Winter Olympics as a journalist (and, at nearly age 72, almost certainly my last).  To me, the rewards of covering an Olympics are greater if you do it as part of a team; every time I re-read the stories we produced at the 2018 Winter Games, I take satisfaction in knowing our team was as good, and our stories as thorough and wide-ranging, as those of any of our competitors.  (Plus, Ms. Rutherford was a great suite mate in the Media Village.)

I also appreciated the chance to share opinions with Jackie Wong on IceTalk, the icenetwork podcast that I am sure will find a new home somewhere.  (Better yet, it gave me the chance to get to know and to write about Jackie, a polymath of extraordinary brilliance in several fields, who is unreservedly gracious about sharing his knowledge of the sport.)

In the weeks since it was announced that icenetwork was closing, with most of its coverage migrating to NBC, I have seen a number of “good riddance” comments, mainly from those who were understandably frustrated by having paid for video coverage that often suffered from inconsistent (or non-existent) streaming quality.  As inexcusable as those problems were, they did not affect the quality of the written and photographic coverage that icenetwork provided to those who follow this sport.

There was no other website in English that covered figure skating this way and in such depth - with real reporting, not the rumor-mongering, cheerleading and trolling on fan forums. It covered serious problems like concussions and the struggles of skaters after retirement.  It covered technical issues in the sport, like scoring and age limits.  It covered global stars and their achievements, not just U.S. skaters, even though icenetwork was under the aegis of U.S. Figure Skating.

  Lynn Rutherford getting insights from Olympic and world ice dance medalist Ben Agosto. (U.S. Figure Skating)

Lynn Rutherford getting insights from Olympic and world ice dance medalist Ben Agosto. (U.S. Figure Skating)

I never was told to write a story to make USFS look good or to do a “puff” piece.  (I would not have done either if I had been told to.)  I strove for the same thing I always have: fair, balanced coverage of events and issues, getting both sides of a story, verifying facts with those involved.  Lynn did the same: her stories always were informed with a variety of viewpoints and voices, and her interest in and insights into ice dance proved especially valuable in an era when the United States produced one world (and Olympic) dance medalist after another - and a gold-medal couple in both global championships, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Because the years of icenetwork coverage apparently will not be archived once the site shuts down Saturday, I have preserved mine by posting full versions of all my stories here on Globetrotting - where I plan, at least for now, to continue writing about skating.  I am as proud of this work as I am of that at the newspapers for which I have worked, and I am proud to have been an icenetwork contributor.  As the "doomsday clock" ticked, I found myself sadder about the end of icenetwork than I imagined I would be.

Ave atque vale.