In February of this year, I decided to move to Fairbanks, Alaska. I’ll never forget the first thing my dad said to me on the phone.

“You’re not really moving to Fairbanks, Alaska, are you?”

He wasn’t the last person to ask me that when I said I was moving to Alaska, but sure enough I did. What a journey it was to get here and what a journey it’s been to stay these past eight months.

Dealing with the Canadians to get here and dealing with haters to stay here was quite a challenge, for sure, but it’s been worth it.

For the better part of the last year, I’ve been able to see outstanding athletic events that no where else in the world can offer such as the Midnight Sun game. I’d never covered hockey before coming here, but the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have made a hockey fan out of me. The opportunity to cover DII athletics after covering JUCO where I came from, as well as the opportunity to cover 4A size schools has been an enormous one. I’m grateful for all of that.

There’s something else, however, that I’ve gotten to experience here that I’d never truly been familiar with: The overwhelming kindness I’ve received from so many of you.

I had a few peers in New Orleans tell me they enjoyed my work, which was nice. I had several people email me in Colorado that they were fans of my writing as well, which also felt good. But my oh my, I NEVER got this kind of treatment.

My first day in the office I had more than a dozen “welcome to Fairbanks” emails. By the end of my first month, I’d had people give me books, freshly cooked salmon, and a vinyl copy of The Temptations Greatest Hits! Just this past week I got a going away card with $50 and an email from a woman telling me her friend wanted to date me! It’s been extraordinary! (Side note, if the lady interested in the date is ever in rural Iowa, call the cat and he’ll set you up with an appointment).

I’ve joked about how not everyone is sad to see me go, and by joked about I mean I was dead serious. I got plenty of not-so-fan mail and voicemails as well. I got those in Sterling and New Orleans as well, however, and I NEVER got the kind of warmth, generosity, and overwhelming kindness that I’ve gotten from the people of Fairbanks, North Pole, Delta, and the rest of the interior. Those people have more than made up for the ones that haven’t been quite so kind.

So that takes us to one last Hart of the Matter: Thank you. Thank you to everyone that’s made me felt so welcome and as though I belonged. Thank you the wonderful AC’s and coaches who’ve made my job easier just by wanting their kids to get their recognition. Thank you to the players, parents and fans for helping me better understand the deep history rooted in Fairbanks athletics. Thank you to everyone for making this part of my journey so memorable.

I hope that Iowa has people half as friendly and giving as the community I’ve called home for most of this year. I was just telling my parents the other day, “I’d take the fans with me if I could.” I know that I can’t and I know how much Fairbanks means to you all. While I head to Iowa knowing that this is the right move for myself (and the cat), I’ll never forget this time I’ve spent in the great north. I have you all to thank for that, so I just wanted to say it.

Well, as far as I can think of, that’s it. Thanks for getting to the Hart of the Matter with me one last time. Oh, and when my dad asked if I was really moving to Fairbanks, Alaska, I told him, “Yes, I am.”

If anyone asks moving forward if I really moved to Fairbanks Alaska, I’ll always tell them, “Yes, and I’m happy I did.”

Contact sports editor Hart Pisani at hpisani@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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