Wichita Thunder

Wichita Thunder: Just how bad can they be?

I've been in the business long enough to know that most people consider sports writing a glamorous profession, but as a public service to the millions of youngsters hoping to follow in my footsteps, I feel compelled to pull back the curtain and divulge some of the drawbacks: bad pay, deadline pressure, groupies.

It's not as easy as Ray Barone makes it look.

Still, those annoyances pale in comparison to the worst part of my job: this yearly column, in which I'm charged with describing the best moment(s) from my beat in 2009.

Simple enough, if you're Paul Suellentrop, who covers the resurgent, 11-1 Wichita State basketball team. Or prep writer Joanna Chadwick, who has her pick of state championship teams and top athletes to choose from.

I cover the Wichita Thunder, a once-proud hockey franchise that went 11-46-4 in '09.

You see the problem.

I considered taking a different approach, like esteemed Eagle columnist Bob Lutz, who somehow got away with writing about his golf game. While I don't golf, I can juggle, but I didn't think I could fill the required 12 column inches with that skill, especially since I only use tennis balls, not knives or flaming torches.

Actually, the best hockey-related moment for me in 2009 came when I saw a rerun of the "Michael's Birthday" episode of "The Office." Steve Carell can really skate.

But I've stalled long enough. Here goes:

* Coming off a season-ending knee injury, Mike Batovanja arrived to training camp with a different look — he was wearing a Mohawk — but the same hardnosed attitude that made him a fan favorite and team captain.

The 5-foot-7 forward hit, fought and hustled as if he was fully recovered until his knee finally gave out, ending his season after 15 games.

This is my ninth season on the Thunder beat, and I'd include Batovanja among my favorite players to watch. As the hockey cliche goes, he never takes a shift off. Batovanja's season perfectly symbolized the Thunder's year: High hopes in the beginning followed by bitter disappointment.

* In a moving ceremony that surprised even the honoree, the Thunder retired Rob Weingartner's No. 15 jersey on March 20. The generally intense Weingartner, standing at center ice with his family, seemed genuinely moved when his uniform was unveiled in the Kansas Coliseum rafters.

* Thunder players have been abused by the opposition for years, so it has been a refreshing change to watch 6-foot-7 Chris McAllister dish out more than his fair share of punishment. I like his attitude, too. After a recent game, the NHL veteran campaigned for more roster changes and called the Thunder the "joke of the league." It needed to be said.

Honorable mention: The joy I felt when the Thunder scrapped its "crappy furniture" promotion; Jason Duda again proving his loyalty to the franchise by taking over as interim coach; any chuck-a-puck promotion — it simply never gets old.

Thunder postponed — The Thunder's game Friday at Tulsa was postponed due to inclement weather and poor road conditions. The makeup date has not been determined.