Disclaimer: I am breaking from my normal writing style and writing something personal. This is not Kings news or commentary/opinions on anything Kings related. It is about the author. If you are not interested in reading such a thing, kindly wait for my next article. Oh, and the video will make more sense as you read on.
We’ve all heard the kid we thought was naive or ignorant claim that a celebrity or public figure changed his/her life. We either pretend to be excited for them or we quietly scoff. I personally think that people who say such things are silly. A millionaire public figure does not know you. You do not know them. They do not care about you personally. Pick someone else to form a connection with that can affect positive change in your life. I am not this kid. I am not naive enough to think that players who I’ve never met outside of a handshake or an autograph care about me personally. They do not do what they do to enact positive change in my life. AEG employees who plan out various ways to make fans feel connected with the team are not thinking about how it might help one man sitting behind a computer screen. Nevertheless, it happened. Don’t worry, I’m not Nicholas Sparks. I’m not about to get sappy.
The LA Kings Organization (including the Ice Crew and entertainment staff) have had a positive impact upon my life. My life has changed in a positive way. Special thanks would have to go out to Mike, Jay, Ryan, Bailey, Carrlyn, Ashley, Arsee, Becky, Alexis, Gabby, Brooklyn, Jessica, and Jake. Others would be the folks I chat with on Twitter such as Gann (Frozen Royalty) and friends I’ve made along the way (King Louie, Christie and others.) Yet another part of this family would have to be the Let’s Go Kings forum folks. This is an active, thriving online family. To most of you, I am probably just a fan who shows up and writes about what he observes. To a few of you, I hope you consider me a friend. To me, you guys have had a big impact on my life.
I never had the opportunity to attend many games until this last year. As a kid, we were pretty poor. Dad took us to one game at The Forum. The Sharks beat the Kings- on my birthday. As an adult I was wrapped up in college and work. I lived too far away. Three years ago in November all of this changed. I’m a retail manager and was offered a transfer to a bigger store. I took the transfer and moved to Sherman Oaks. I now live only 20-30 minutes away from Staples and am somewhat financially comfortable. In the 12-13 season I was able to attend a dozen or so games and then a good handful of playoff games. I also attended as many watch parties as I possibly could. I became addicted. There’s a camaraderie and love that is hard to find anywhere else. You and 18,000 other people are cheering in unison and you feel part of a joint venture to be victorious. You experience the highs of winning and the devastating lows of watching a hard fought loss. You have conversations with strangers who are here for the same reason you are. These people cease being strangers and become friends. I then decided to start writing about what I saw and (some) people liked what they read. People started recognizing me, started remembering my face and name. I got to continue building on this camaraderie.
Now, how did my life change? There are a few different ways. The primary one would be that I was able to quit smoking thanks to all of this. Sure, scoff. Think what you will. Let me explain, then judge.
I am a retail manager. This means I spend many hours indoors dealing with customers who range from the most pleasant of people to people who should be locked in a room never to be allowed to interact with other humans. I started having a smoke here and there. I welcomed the chance to go outside and escape the rat race for a moment. I love my job but those 10 minutes I got to spend outside became precious and joyous to me. Soon thereafter I was smoking a half pack or more a day. I smoked American Spirit full flavored cigarettes. To those of you who don’t know anything about smokes, these have the most nicotine of any commercially available smoke. Camels and Marlboro’s have .9mg of nicotine while American Spirits feature a lovely 2.1mg of nicotine per cigarette. I smoked for about five years.
Now that I’ve moved within driving distance of Staples and am more financially comfortable, what am I to do? Well, the natural response of someone who has become addicted to attending games and can afford it would be to become a season ticket holder. I agonized over this decision. I really wanted to become a season ticket holder, but how was I to afford another $150-200 a month? I was now a part of this passionate family of 18,000 and wanted to keep coming to the family get togethers. Slowly, the answer crept upon me. If I quit smoking, I could easily pay the monthly payment required to become a season ticket holder.
Now, for those of you who don’t smoke, let me explain a smoker’s brain to you. Smokers also suffer from a mild case of multiple personality disorder. We have our normal, rational, human brain. We also have “smoker brain.” Smoker brain is a crafty, sneaky, conniving, charming fellow. He reminds me of that friend we all have that convinces us to spend our evenings doing things we know will turn out poorly. You know, the guy who charms and convinces you into hanging out with him then wakes up next to you while your bank account is reduced by half and your cell phone/keys are missing? That’s the human embodiment of smoker brain. As I write this, smoker brain is arguing with rational brain. “You know how you could celebrate a full week without a cigarette? By having just one. You could also write about this topic more fully as you experience the happiness one more time!” “I’ve made it a full week. It was really difficult and I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.” “You won’t! Just one can’t possibly hurt all the progress you’ve made.” This is not a reasonable argument. But this smoker brain guy is very convincing and he’s very tricky since he knows everything about me. He also starts talking to my rational brain the moment I would normally have had a cigarette. Believe me, I very much enjoy smoking. I love the chance to step outside and have 10 minutes of dedicated me time. I love the community of smokers who go chat with each other while partaking in their vice. I love the happiness and satisfaction that comes with a cigarette. Sure, my clothes would stink. My teeth yellowed slightly. My lung capacity is reduced. I never cared because I enjoyed it.
I put in the required deposit to get on the wait list for season tickets. I then told myself that once I acquired seats and had to make my first payment I would quit smoking. The time approached and I started smoking more often as I grew anxious just thinking about it. Finally, select a seat came and went and I had no time left. I finished out the pack I had and went cold turkey.
On day one, I was a little anxious and nervous but it wasn’t too bad. On day two, I was going insane. My hands spasm-ed, my body wouldn’t stop moving, I couldn’t focus. I was slurring words. When I tried to count out change to a customer I found I was unable to. I had to start over almost four times just to count out 63 cents. I could think of nothing but the desire to smoke. On day three, it got worse. I felt like Corky Romano in the above video. Day four was pretty easy. Day five was the hardest so far. I had a mini anxiety attack while at work. Day six and seven (I’m on day eight now) were much much easier. What carried me through all of this? I just kept telling myself that when I get to sit in MY seat on opening night it will all be worth it. To sit in a seat that I know will be mine from October through June will make the struggle worth it. Not once did health benefits go through my mind- it was all the desire to keep coming to the family get togethers at Staples center. When I started to feel weak, I remembered what all the boys went through during the playoffs. Sure, they get paid to play hockey. They don’t get paid to “leave it all on the ice.” What carries the boys through the injuries and hard times they deal with? Pure willpower and passion. Willpower and passion are two things I’ve got down pat. Plus, I’m stubborn. All of this combined carried me through this first week.
I also was allowed to attend the Ice Crew Auditions as anyone who reads my blog knows. This inspired me to start getting back into shape. I’ve never been terribly out of shape but I used to run track so I was quite fit. Once my lung capacity has recovered a bit, I’m going to start running once again. Seeing how hard all the Ice Crew folks worked at the auditions made me feel ashamed of my own lack of fitness. I used to pride myself on being physically fit and I let that fall by the wayside. They all work very, very hard and they stay positive and love every minute of it. I can especially think of Arsee here as she is a personal trainer and has abs that put almost anyone I’ve ever met to shame.
For any of you who are smokers, I get it. I really do. You have no desire to quit. Or perhaps you do and you lack the willpower to do it. Find something you are absolutely crazy about and would rather spend the money on. Then focus on that when your body and mind start betraying you. Also, grab an e-cig or vaporizer. It isn’t the same as a real smoke, but it does help take the edge off and stay moderately sane. Plus, it’s much cheaper. You can see below what got me through this ordeal.
So, how else has the Kings Organization changed my life?
I grew up in a very sheltered, religious home. My dad worked many hours to try and provide a decent living for us. My step mother and I were never close. My mother was out of the picture for the most part. In middle school and high school I was a “reject.” I was nerdy and obnoxious (that part hasn’t changed.) I was never one of the popular kids. My apparel was mostly from thrift stores or Wal Mart. This is not a woe is me tale, I’m just providing a backdrop. This all lead to me being very introverted and uncomfortable socially. My first job was in retail and I started coming out of my shell due to it. I have now worked in retail for 12 years. My family and I do not keep in contact due to various reasons (primarily due to my family being religious while I am not) and so I have no companionship there. All of the friends I had growing up were no longer interested in a friendship due to my walking away from my former religion. This meant that as I started adulthood I was very much alone. I could go into more detail, but this is a public forum and you probably aren’t all that interested. All of the friends I made in college stopped inviting me to anything as I worked too many hours. We eventually all moved on and moved away. I am a married man and my wife and I have a great relationship. One big thing I’ve always struggled with is companionship and friendships. It has gotten much better over the years, but it’s always been an area where I have felt some lacking in my life.
This has changed due to my recent addiction to attending Kings games and events. I feel like I’m part of an incredible and amazing group of people who all get together to pull for our beloved team. I’ve met a lot of great people and appreciate all of them. While some of them are paid and required to be nice to me, they didn’t have to be as friendly and as passionate as they have been. It’s an amazing feeling to get into a room full of people who have never met you yet they already love you. I have been hugged, had my back slapped/thumped, hand shaken more times that I can count. And I love every minute of it. I appreciate all of you and look forward to a full season of which to come enjoy all of your company.
I’m going to leave you with this. Go to every game you can. Go to every watch party or event you can. Talk to every single person who is willing to talk to you and enjoy the conversation. Don’t be afraid to engage, hug, high five everyone around you. This is the family I’ve always wanted and it is a huge, amazing family. I love all of you whether you know who I am or not. If you do happen to run into me, please come chat.
Personal shout outs: Mike is one of the warmest guys you will ever meet. You can tell within a few moments that he absolutely loves life and what he does. Jay has more energy than almost anyone I’ve ever met, and it’s contagious. Bailey makes everything fun (including eating dinner. He spoon fed me salad on one occasion) and keeps the party going even when others feel like it’s time to give in. I’ve had some great conversations with Ryan. The guy is incredibly intelligent and driven and really knows his hockey. Carrlyn is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and I’m excited to seeing big things from her in the near future. Ashley is electric and her passion for the game is contagious. Arsee is a force to be reckoned with as she is positivity embodied. Becky absolutely loves what she does and shares that with everyone around her. Alexis has a warm smile at the ready for anyone she comes into contact with and shares her passion with everyone around. Gabby has moved on to other things but she always had a big smile for me at every event or game. Brooklyn is an absolute professional and you can see the results of the passion she has for the entertainment side of things through her people. She has been very gracious and appears to love what she does as well. Jessica has always been a sweetheart and was a mirror for what everyone else around her was feeling. Jake treats everyone he runs into like a buddy he’s known for years. I love you all, I’m looking forward to another great season!