I will never forget the text conversation I had with a friend one day near the beginning of last January (2011). To paraphrase it said:“Hey you love the Preds right?” “Well yeah I hoped no one ever questioned that” ”We have an idea, that we think would be a fun way to pump the crowd up, HOW much do you love the Preds?” “Well I mean I am pretty obsessed with them, would do about anything to watch them, What do you have in mind?” ”Well, I hoped you would say that…What if we paint your stomach to announce a sellout?” “I am not sure I will have to think about that.”
The above conversation was with Codey Holland from Cellblock 303. Yes, I did think about it, and as we all know, I agreed. But it was not an easy decision. As a shy bigger guy, I didn’t even take my shirt off with my family at the pool. So the thought of Painting and Showing it off in front of 17113 people for the first time, was horrifying. I will never forget my nerves that first night. We told the Camera guy where I was sitting. He came by and told me when they were going to show me, I was sick to my stomach, then, things were delayed, and I was really sick to my stomach and my hands were shaking. When the camera did hit, the Preds were down 2-0 to the Blackhawks. The crowd was pretty out of the game. I figured the last thing they would want to see was my stomach. But low and behold, the crowd went NUTS. Shortly after the reveal, the Preds scored their first goal. During the next TV timeout, the Bridgestone Arena did what it does best. The crowd erupted into a standing ovation. The camera kept panning back and the crowd was one of the loudest up till that time ever it seemed. When the puck was dropped, it immediately went to Weber, who scored. The Preds went on to win 3-2 in Overtime.
I figured this painting thing would be a one game thing, something fun to pump the crowd up. Little did I know, a year later, I would be sitting here for weeks trying to cram all of the experience into a blog. I have been so fortunate to meet some of the absolute greatest people in Smashville. I have also been amazed how much the players seem to know and enjoy the fun. If you have read my blogs before you know how close Wade Belak and I were. Wade was a huge inspiration for me. He talked me into the first painting when I discussed it with him, and encouraged me to keep painting. Wade also could quote you just about any given night what the theme was. Wade was also nice enough to introduce me to so many of the guys, usually out at the PR events and such. The reactions from all the players have been overwhelming. For instance the first time I met Mike Fisher, I remember him quoting the “Smashville <3 Fisher” design I did welcoming him to the team. And I remember him saying he and his lovely wife sat and discussed it and that is when he knew Nashville had the best fans. I met his wife a few weeks later and she echoed Mike’s comments about loving the ideas. The feedback from not only the Preds players, but the coaches, and even Predators executives has been another huge surprise. I will never forget standing on the plaza after the end of the Vancouver series last year. I was pretty down, we all were, next thing I know a gentleman has come up behind me and patted me on the back and gave me a half hug. It was Sean Henry, Predators President and COO. He high fived me, and stood and talked with a group of us fans for several minutes discussing the series.
What has been more humbling to me though, has been the everyday average fans in Nashville. I have gotten to meet some of the coolest fans who have become friends. Meeting everyone during and after games has become one of my favorite experiences. I have two fans who come to mind, Brady and Lee. Both of these guys are some of the biggest Predators fans you will meet. I got to meet Lee during the Ducks playoffs games. He was so nice and learning his story, and some of the health problems he is battling, broke my heart. I can truly say I hope meeting Lee has made me a better person and though I don’t see him often, I pray for him everyday. Brady is one of my youngest fans. (I am about to purposely embarrass him) I was pretty excited to meet him, after his mom messaged me on Facebook to say he looked forward to seeing me so much, he started painting his stomach around the house. I love getting to see Brady at the games; he always puts a smile on my face.
I do want to especially thank so many of my close friends for their support. None of this would be possible without my hockey family. Especially Justin Bradford (@justinbbradford for you twitter folks-follow him) Justin is the one who has served as my “Manager” and is also my Painter most nights. I have several friends who have helped paint along the way and if I try to name them all I will forget someone. So to all who have all helped paint I offer nothing but thanks and I am sorry! But without Justin, this whole thing would have fallen apart before it ever got started.
There is so much more to say, but in the end, it comes down to thank you. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and stomach. At the end of the night, all I want to do is make people laugh. That same trait that caused my teachers in school so much grief- I hope makes you smile in your seats. Win or lose I hope that at least one person in the arena gets a kick out of this. Most nights I have no idea when the team is going to show me, I try to just let them know where I will be and just try to be ready. There have been plenty of nights when I am painted and not been shown. I suppose those (and a constantly multi-colored shower) are the occupational hazards. I have been trying not to repeat ideas, and I am always in search of new ideas, so make sure to keep sending those to me as well. In an effort to keep everyone surprised, I am also planning some big things, including special guests, in the next few months and more contests as well. But basically I will keep painting as long as you, the fans keep enjoying. I hope this first year has been as fun for you as it has for me.
Again Thank you all for a wonderful year of memories.
- To see photos from the last year check out This Link
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