From Charlemagne to the Sabres: Meet Craig Kanalley - INTERVIEW
blog by Nick Mendola • October 03, 2013 @ 1:04pm
“Someone should be doing this.”
Give a person a nickel for every time they’ve heard something akin to that sentiment at work, school or just amongst friends, and there’d be a whole lot of nickels.
But for Craig Kanalley, that sentence has been the recipe for action. Whether breaking news for the Huffington Post, as social media manager for the Buffalo Sabres or tracing his family history back to the founder of the Carolingian Empire, Kanalley just gets things done.
He’s got that Twitter blue check, you know?
Take the Huffington Post, the online news aggregator with a mere 3.4 million Twitter followers: Kanalley literally created a larger role for himself when he observed the problems that arose when news broke in a giant newsroom.
“It seemed like there needed to be a person in terms of breaking news and live events,” Kanalley said. “Sometimes there was confusion when there was big news going on. I just thought, ‘There should be a person for that.’”
He was that guy, given the apt title “senior editor of Big News & Live Events.” And with that, he was off into unprecedented waters. When things in the nation got nutty, Kanalley got busy.
“You gotta be very calm,” he said. “It’s high-stress and you have to work with a lot of different people, but I actually enjoyed it. Part of it was settling disputes. If we have a big story going on and if it was about tech and media and politics and there were all these sections combined, it was figuring out who would take the lead on what.”
As much as he enjoyed his work, he yearned to be home. After an incredibly-successful and rather Catholic educational sequence of Cardinal O’Hara High School, St. John Fisher College and DePaul University for grad school, Kanalley found himself working in New York City, set apart from his beloved Buffalo sports teams.
As time elapsed, however, Kanalley found himself in an odd position for someone who considers himself a great optimist. He thought a return to Buffalo was nearing impossible status.
“Really during the past year, I had resigned to myself that it wasn’t going to happen,” Kanalley said. “I wasn’t going to be able to come back to Buffalo. It was just reality setting in.”
Thankfully in this case, reality was subjective. Kanalley was alerted to an item in his hometown, in his favorite sport, for his favorite team.
“Hockey’s always been a big part of my entire family,” Kanalley said. “Both my grandfathers played hockey and my paternal grandfather’s family is from Canada so there’s a lot of connections to the sport. My mom’s uncle owns one of the hockey rinks in Western New York.
“The Sabres have always been my favorite sports team, period. It’s awe-inspiring to have the opportunity to work for the Sabres.”
He’s thrilled to be home, saying he missed being near the epicenter of the Bills and Sabres. Being in New York City wasn’t working in that communal way of the Buffalo sports fan.
“I missed being in Buffalo for that, for that energy and that enthusiasm,” Kanalley said. “That was something I really wanted to come back to.”
Settling into Buffalo has been fun for the 27-year-old, who described his job as “leading social media efforts and engaging with fans.” He also says the team is going to have a lot more content this year.
“Fans can expect to have constant information and a constant stream of everything on the Sabres,” Kanalley said.
No doubt, considering his relentless research drive. Consider his love for genealogy, which he started getting into at age 12. Seriously, he’s been grinding away at the family tree for more than half his life. Kanalley’s found links including:
1) The royal: Charlemagne (relationship below, pictured right)
2) The Hollywood royal: John Depp (ninth cousins, twice removed)
3) The incredibly ironic: Skip Bayless (eighth cousins).
“It’s become a huge passion for me,” Kanalley said. “It depends on the family line, but some go back to the 1400s and earlier. The most interesting thing I’ve found is that I’m a descendant of royalty on one of the lines. One of the youngest sons, he didn’t inherit as much and he had a youngest son who didn’t inherit as much and then they are farmers.”
That line of royalty? Only goes back to the first emperor of the Western Roman Empire since its collapse, a gentleman named Charlemagne.
“It goes through a line of a German family who came to Buffalo, they were basket makers,” Kanalley said. “They just go back all the way to Charlemagne if you go far enough.”
Kanalley’s back working his genealogical history in the city where he wants his future. He loves seeing the building going on downtown, including his employer’s HarborCenter project, but also start-ups and simple improvements.
“It starts with little steps and little things,” Kanalley said. “Every project is another good thing for Buffalo in terms of turning things around and moving forward. There’s a ripple effect, too.”
He’s here. He’s home. He’s hopeful.
“My family’s here,” Kanalley said. “All my roots are here. The energy and the enthusiasm of the sports teams and the community. I actually love snow, too, so that helps.”
(Header photo courtesy of Bill Wippert, former Buffalo News photographer and current Buffalo Sabres photographer. Image of Charlemagne is courtesy of MedievalWall.com).