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Pitré: Reflections on the 2022 season, and signing off

 From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

NHL: APR 12 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Golden Knights at Sharks SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 12: A outside view of the SAP Center prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs game between the San Jose Sharks and the Las Vegas Golden Knights on April 12, 2019, at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you’re a San Jose Sharks fan, then you might know who I am. For the past year, I’ve been up in the press box and occasionally at practice, bringing you the behind-the-scenes perspective to Quick Bites and other features.

Fear The Fin, all the work I’ve done here, and all of the amazing projects I’ve been able to create through it (This Is Hockey Culture, etc.) have meant more to me than words can describe, and saying goodbye to this chapter in my life isn’t easy. After nearly a full season on board with this incredible team and community here at FTF, I’m overjoyed to announce that I’ll be moving on to the NHL and NHL.com.

When the inimitable Sie Morley (who deserves their own essay of thank-yous) floated the idea to write something personal encapsulating what this year has been like, and what the Fear The Fin and Sharks community means to me, I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper.

Except, when I sat down to write what you’re reading right now, I drew a blank. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say — how could I not, after FTF has brought me lifelong friends, career opportunities beyond my wildest dreams, and closer to a fanbase that has given me an incredible sense of community and belonging? Instead, I had so much to say, that I didn’t know where to begin.

As sports journalists, we tell other people’s stories for a living, and it’s a privilege to be trusted to do so. Writing player features with a finite set of information and quotes is the easy part. Breaking off a piece of my own journey to share is so much more difficult. How on earth do I fit an entire lifetime of experiences leading to this very moment into one sentence?

I can’t, is the answer, but in order to fully put the impact of joining Fear The Fin into perspective, I have to start somewhere, and the most important detail is as good a place as any;

I never meant to fall in love with hockey.

I don’t come from a hockey family or hockey background. I fell headfirst into hockey when I was barely eighteen, entirely on my own, of my own volition, but it wasn’t until I was halfway through my undergraduate degree and already working in journalism that I decided to dedicate 100 percent of my effort to pursue a career in hockey. Then, right around the time I graduated college, I found Fear The Fin … and the rest is history.

The rest being a long, but fulfilling year spent working harder than I’ve ever worked before, chock-full of incredible experiences like sitting in the press box for my very first game that will always be tucked into the back of my mind.

It’s hard to put into words just what hockey means to me and to be frank, you probably know exactly what that bone-deep love and appreciation for the sport feels like because you feel it too.

Hockey gave me my life back. It gave me a community, a purpose, and a passion. It gave me a home, and, as flawed as it can be (and has been) at times, I love this sport and culture with everything I have in me.

Those same sentiments might be something you can relate to. No matter who we are, or where we come from, we’re all tied together through it. We’re here because the rush of the game, the crunch of skates slicing through the ice, the roar of a crowd — it feels like home.

And it’s this sense of community through Fear The Fin — all of you in the comments, on Twitter, and more — that has been such a rewarding and grounding force this year, and an integral part of what’s kept me going, even when the going got tough.

Being one of the youngest of persons in the room (I’m only 23), and oftentimes the only woman, in an industry that can be so big and overwhelming sometimes felt isolating. But even in those moments of insecurity, I knew that I belonged here, and that’s because of the community here at Fear The Fin.

And, as I leave Fear The Fin and SB Nation onto the next stage of my career with the NHL and NHL.com, I want to build upon that sense of togetherness in FTF’s legacy:

We’re a community. And as a community, we deserve greater inclusion, accessibility and diversity at every level of the hockey industry, from the executive suites down to community-based initiatives. We can’t change hockey culture for the better if we don’t work and advocate for change, and it’s my undeniable honor and pleasure to do have done my very best to work for that change in this sport every day on behalf of Fear The Fin and to now carry that with me to the next chapter of my career.

If at 18 years old, I had been told that this is where I’d be at 23, I’d have never believed it. It’s taken a lot of hard work, self-belief, and some amazing people (such as Sie, and everyone else on the FTF team) saying yes to me that I’ve been able to forge a path in hockey.

I can’t speak enough good things about how impactful Fear The Fin has been on me personally and professionally, and I say this with every ounce of my being, to all of you:

Thank you.