Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Five Magical Seasons....

Buckle up, this is going to be a long one....It is going to be a little bit of a story about me, and a little bit of a story about the Monsters...

A little more than five years ago I walked into Quicken Loans Arena looking for an opportunity.  I guess in reality, I was really looking to pursue my dream of working for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I don't know exactly how it happened, or what made me walk in that day, but I did.

It was in late January or early February and I was downtown Cleveland on another appointment for the company I was currently working for, Sunset Golf.  Coincidentally, there was a job fair going on that day inside The Q.  The job fair that I have now participated in on the other side every year since.  It is an annual event where we look for the best and brightest out there looking to start a career in sports.  That particular day I walked in to The Q purely on the basis of curiosity.  I didn't exactly know what was going on until I walked in the doors.  Ten minutes after I

stepped through the Northeast entrance I found myself walking inside the building where dozens of sports teams from all over, and other local businesses, lined the concourse looking for future employees.

There was only one team I was really interested in, and that was the Cleveland Cavaliers. So I found their table and got in line to speak to a representative about any potential job opportunities.  At this point I still didn't even really know what I was doing there or what I was going to be asked about.  I just knew that working for the Cavs had always been in my heart.  That dream, however, seemed to be short lived.  My brief conversation with the rep standing at their table did not go well, and I knew it immediately.  I saw people being taken behind the table after that initial five minute conversation, and I was not one of those people they asked to come back.  The guy seemed to have little to no interest in what I had to say. That person will remain nameless.

The next part is all a bit of a blur. A few minutes later I had wandered over to the table next to the Cavs, which had a sign reading, "Lake Erie Monsters".  At that point all I could think was, well the name sounds cool, because other than that I didn't have a clue as to what or who the Lake Erie Monsters were. Which by the way, was the exact same sentiment and thought that many of my future customers would have when I first started making calls!  Anyway, I thought to myself I'm already here, so what could it hurt. 

Long story short, it turned out to be a brand new American Hockey League team that Dan Gilbert had purchased a few months earlier.  They would begin their inaugural season in October of 2007.  I got to the front of the line and spoke to a woman whom I had a completely different experience with than the gentleman on the Cavs side.  Before I knew it she had me talking to her boss, John Fisher, who at that time was overseeing the ticket sales team for the Monsters.  Before I knew what had even happened two weeks had passed, and I was hired as a Sales Consultant to begin on April 1st of 2007.  Once again, at this point, I still didn't really have a clue as to what I was getting myself into.

So I walked into Quicken Loans Arena on April 1st, 2007 as a full time sales rep for the Lake Erie Monsters.  A professional hockey team.  A hockey team.  A freaking hockey team.  How did this happen? I played college basketball.  High school tennis.  I was a baseball player.  I ran cross country.  Racquetball, kickball, track, croquet, volleyball and just about any other sport you can think of I had played at some point in my 24 years.  But never in my life had I ever set foot in an ice rink, nor had I ever seen one single second of a professional hockey game in person.  In fact I had never watched a hockey game at any level in person.  The only exposure I had to professional hockey was the 47 total seconds of NHL hockey that I had watched on TV somewhere along the line.  I blame that all on my dad.

What is the moral of this story?  The decision to walk into the arena that day was probably the best decision I've ever made in my life.  I have been fortunate enough to be a part of an amazing, memorable, almost surreal journey the last five years with the Monsters.  I've been a member of a team that has built a professional hockey team, in Cleveland, from the ground up. I think we may have even started below ground.  Buried.  At the Earth's core.  Because for the most part, that summarizes the feelings people in Cleveland had about professional hockey, at least at that particular time.

It hasn't been easy. My first week of phone calls I can't tell you how many times I heard, "hockey will never work in Cleveland,"  or even more encouraging, "The Lake Erie who? Are you the minor league baseball team?"  We all dealt with it. Every day. From Public Relations to Community Relations, Sales and Marketing, Game Ops..All of us.  We knew from day one it was going to be a battle.

So anyway, NO, we're not the minor league baseball team. I'll tell you who we are, and now I can even tell who we have become........

To be continued...


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