It didn't take me but two or three weeks after my first day to realize that I was exactly where I belonged. I was in a place where amazing things were going to happen and I felt perfectly at home, even if I didn't know the first thing about hockey. It is a little strange right?
You see there is something very unique about the Monsters and the people that work for our team. There is a undeniable bond that permanently ties us all together. It creates an environment with energy permeating from the walls, and passion pouring out of the people that work within them. Our culture is one that manifests itself in the successes that we have accomplished together. We're a team, from top to bottom, which is the only way we know how to be. We achieve success individually only through the achievements of our team as a whole. We love each other, plain and simple. That doesn't mean we're all best friends, but we have a profound respect for what we all have to go through every day to have success. That is how I knew so quickly I was in the right place. And even though we had crazy challenges in front of us, we were going to make magical things happen inside Quicken Loans Arena and in the Cleveland community.
How does it happen? Could it be great leadership? You better believe it. Since the day we started we've had leaders running this business that cared just as much about the success of our team, as they did of themselves in their personal careers. But that isn't everything. Could it also be talented team members? there is no question about it. None of our accomplishments would have even been remotely possible if we didn't have some of the best in the business working for us. But again, there is just more to it. There is something else that has driven this franchise to successes that most in Cleveland thought were impossible, just a pipe dream of a rich owner with money to spend. It is a really difficult theory to articulate, but I'll do my best.....
You'd think in a town full of such passionate people that a new team, albeit hockey, could attract some of that undying love from the people for their sports teams. But we're "minor league". We're not the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cleveland Browns or the Cleveland Indians. We never will be. Those teams have been here for decades and have an unbelievably loyal following in this region. A group that is unwavering in their support of the home town teams. It's one of the things I love about this city. Thick and thin, win or lose, we are all connected through the support we show our teams. The Monsters could never possible crack into that category, right? We're minor league, in a major league town, and we're a hockey team. Undoubtedly the least popular sport of the four majors. (Aside from all you die hards! You know who you are. I know how much you guys love this sport!)
Let's talk about a couple more things working against us. The Monsters resided in a building where the mother ship was and always will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. At that time there was not a more popular team in town. Sorry Browns fans, it is true. Lebron James and the Cavs packed the house with 20,562 fans night in and night out. Our staff and front office were focused on capitalizing on every single ounce of energy that followed this team during the Lebron era, and trying to make our business the best it could be. Along with, of course, trying to win a championship. So how the hell were the Monsters going to get any attention in a town where there are three beloved sports teams, and one with an otherworldly superstar who dominated the headlines every single day? Well the answer was simple, we didn't. Not even really in our own building, and not even from some of our own team members that weren't working directly on the Monsters team. (No names, please). At least not at first.
So guess what? It just might be that we all quickly developed a, "small", chip on our shoulders about doing everything in our power to grow this franchise. You could even probably call it a complex. Maybe we feel like we are on a mission to prove every single doubter wrong about how successful a minor league hockey team could be in Cleveland. Maybe since our opening night on Saturday, October, 2007, we've expended every last ounce of energy we had in our bodies to build this team into what it is today?
None of those things are a maybe......
Every single time from the day we started this thing that someone has doubted us, we have used that as fuel. Honestly we didn't give a damn whether or not people thought we could make this work. We've heard it all before. In fact, just to give you an idea, here are some of my favorites that we heard repeatedly:
"You're minor league, I'm not interested in minor league sports"
Year One - We finished 11th in attendance. Our first year. Expansion franchise.
Year Two - We finished 9th in attendance. Already a sign of growth after only one year
Year Three - We finished 6th in attendance. Still doubting us? Good. Keep it coming.