A Time of Renewal
When I recently heard that SBN was pulling support for hockey blogs, I’ll admit that I was nervous about it.
The Silver Seven community has meant a lot to me, and I was worried that it might simply evaporate. Turns out I should have known better—the folks leading this community are equally invested in it, and I’ve been blown away by what they’ve done (on a very short timeline) to set up Silver Seven’s next phase.
As we embark on that next phase, though, I wanted to take a look back at how this community got to where it is today. (Thankfully, nkb was willing to indulge my request to write an absurd 800-word essay on the founding of this vibrant community.)
The origins of Silver Seven can be traced back to another blog, the Sens Army Blog, which was started by a friend and university classmate of mine, Ben (and is still online, because nothing online ever goes away). I started writing there in April 2007, as the Senators were heading into the post-season for what would end up being the longest playoff run in franchise history—at least to date. We had a lot of fun on that site, and over the next two years produced a lot of Senators content and built a good following through some of the weirdest times in Sens’ history—featuring Martin Gerber, John Paddock, Ray Emery, the popular No Habs No! campaign, and the Sens’ steep descent from Cup contender to… whatever you’d say they’ve been for the last 15 seasons.
In July of 2008, the hockey manager from SB Nation approached me about joining that network, but I wasn’t quite sold on it; despite a (very small, $50) monthly stipend and an improved content management platform, SBN was based in the US and seemed far more focused on sports other than hockey. I opted to keep posting on Sens Army Blog until early 2009, by which time SBN had recruited James Mirtle (now of The Athletic) to build out their NHL network. I still had some misgivings about making a change, particularly about content ownership and editorial freedom, but overall it seemed like the right move. Ben wanted to keep working on the Sens Army Blog, so I worked with Mirtle and the SBN folks to come up with a new name. The options that I came up with at the time were The Palladium, The Barber Pole, Norm Maciver Fan Club, and Silver Seven. We opted for the latter and chose SilverSevenSens.com because the domain was available.
The site’s first post was on February 26, 2009, and things grew quickly from there. I was the site’s only writer at first, but Darren joined shortly after launch and quickly became its de facto second founder. Mark, Ryan, and Alex (who wrote about the Binghamton Senators) joined over the next year or so, producing a lot of great Sens content despite the struggles on the ice… Dany Heatley’s trade demand, the coaching carousel, the goalie graveyard, and general unsettledness.
The most rewarding part of this initial growth phase was witnessing the development of the S7S fan community. The platform SBN offered allowed for broad engagement, and folks came to the site to participate in the comments as much as (maybe more than) for the content itself. That engagement made it very rewarding to continue following a team that was mired in an identity crisis and struggling to find some measure of consistency.
Lots of other writers joined over the next few seasons, including Ary, Varada, Adnan, Brad, Andrew, Bobby, Dave, Bonk’s Mullet (briefly, before launching his own site), Roger, Ross, and many others provided articles and content in the comments. Almost organically, this community developed into a mostly positive, welcoming space for Sens fans (and others); looking back, I wonder if I should have been more assertive in reaching out to folks who didn’t always feel welcome in hockey fan communities, but I remain proud of how open and supportive this community is.
As my personal life got busier (between work and family), I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue giving Silver Seven the time it deserved. I was happy to hand the reins to Mark in May of 2013, and equally happy when those reins were passed to Andrew in February 2014—I felt like those two, leading the community in quick succession, did a lot to support contributors and help the site mature so it was set up for long-term success. Subsequent site managers, including Ross and now nkb, have continued that, and the many editors, writers, and commenters who’ve contributed in ways big and small have really helped ensure that success continues.
Looking forward, I’m really excited to continue following Silver Seven as it embarks on this next chapter in its history. It’s a time of renewal for everything in Senators land—the team has finally found its identity, a new (deep-pocketed) owner will take over the team soon, and they’re on the verge of an overdue move to a downtown arena (hopefully). It only makes sense that Silver Seven experiences its own renewal, and I’m confident that this move toward independence will be a very good thing for the community we’ve built together.