Mixing Business with Pleasure
For many of the LA Kings personnel, work is not just a job, but a way of life
On April 5, 2012 at 8:32 p.m. – barely an hour after the Los Angeles Kings clinched their third straight playoff berth – Dewayne Hankins, the Kings’ Director of Digital Media, made the previous statement from his personal Twitter account.
The phrase ‘extra work’ may be an understatement, especially coming from the man who, during his cross-country move to Los Angeles, had a small panic attack in the middle of rural Missouri as he struggled to find a way to update the Kings website on the heels of the Mike Richards trade.
“We’ve had several nights where the best-laid plans get washed away by the rare Drew Doughty signing or Jeff Carter trade. It comes with the territory,” said Hankins, whose wife, Gloria, gave birth to the couple’s first child in mid-March.
“In our jobs, the playoffs is exactly why we do what we do and it tends to be a pretty somber place when summer vacation begins. It just shows how much passion everyone in this company has for the Kings,” said Hankins, who is currently in his fourth professional sports city.
A handful of empathetic co-workers retweeted Hankins’ tweet, and among those that did was Aaron LeValley, Director of CRM for AEG Sports.
On Wednesday, April 11, LeValley ditched his weekly soccer match in favor of a small establishment in Manhattan Beach with roughly 30 co-workers, all there to watch the Kings on TV during Game 1 of their quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks.
There was no mandatory meeting, no required field work, and no reports expected on the quality of service – it was simply a gathering of people with a common interest and goal – to root for their beloved team as it began what they hope will be a long journey through the post-season.
The excitedly nervous and emotionally vocal group certainly had much to cheer for as the Kings came away with a 1-0 series lead by way of a 4-2 triumph over the Canucks in what proved to be a solid team effort.
Did they realize they were, in essence, cheering for a larger pile of work?
"Like the team, you won't find anyone in the office who is wishing for an April tee time," said LeValley, who moved to Los Angeles three years ago specifically for his job with the Kings.
An average work week for LeValley ranges anywhere from 50-70 hours, which includes game nights. Although LeValley has no specific game duties, he attends games anyway, and in support of his co-workers, often lends himself to customer service issues.
“I go there because of my passion for the game, and why work in hockey if you don’t go to the games?” said LeValley, who grew up in Buffalo as a Sabres fan.
LeValley’s appreciation for the sport that employs him also translates away from the office. Bright and early at 6:30 every Monday morning, he and many other Kings personnel hit the ice at Toyota Sports Center, the Kings’ practice facility, for a staff game of pick-up hockey.
“I’m terrible at hockey, but love playing,” said LeValley, who had never ice-skated prior to moving to Los Angeles.
Unable to join LeValley and the rest of her colleagues for the first period of Game 1, Lauren Wiedmeier, the Kings’ Community Relations Coordinator, sat in a classroom near downtown Los Angeles, anxiously tracking game updates while attempting to focus on test material in her Torts class.
Wiedmeier, in her third season working full-time for the Kings, is also in her first year as a student at Southwestern Law School.
On game days, Wiedmeier is in the El Segundo office by 8 a.m., at STAPLES Center tending to game responsibilities near the end of the work day, and off to class by 6 p.m., only to be back at STAPLES Center for her post-game duties. But even this crazy schedule isn’t enough to stop Wiedmeier from wanting a couple more months of in-season work.
“I admit it. I constantly refresh my computer to track game scores during class. I’ll also have on the NHL Network while I’m studying,” said Wiedmeier, a Miami, Florida native.
Wiedmeier’s love for hockey began long before she came to Los Angeles, as she began playing hockey at the age of nine.
“I remember being nine years old and sitting on the couch with my parents watching the Panthers play the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals,” Wiedmeier said. “A few games into the series, I was hooked.”
That was the beginning of a hockey affair that eventually saw Wiedmeier play center at Boston College for four years alongside Olympic silver medalists Kelli Stack and Molly Schaus, before taking her job with the Kings.
By the start of the third period of Game 1, Wiedmeier was happily settled in, yelling at the television with the people she already spends 40-plus hours a week with.
Not among the Manhattan Beach crew for Game 1, was the Kings’ Manager of Communications and Broadcasting, Jeremy Zager, and his fiancé, Jen Forsyth. The couple chose to watch the game from the comfort of their own home.
According to the superstitious Zager, after a tally of previous game-watching locations, home offered the best winning record. Forsyth was made to sit on a particular couch while Zager occupied the floor, and after the favorable outcome in Game 1, there was no question that Game 2 would be viewed from the same place.
His colleagues would expect nothing less of Zager, widely and respectfully known as the Kings’ ‘Stats Guru,’ who spent an entire day at the conclusion of the regular season proudly preparing the Kings’ 170-page post-season guide.
“I know he absolutely loves working for his favorite sports team and especially being at the games,” said Forsyth, who admitted having to push back this summer’s wedding plans to accommodate possible playoff dates.
“I knew about his schedule when we first started dating, so I had a chance to run away,” said Forsyth, who, like Hankins’ wife, is a sports fan in general. “I know his job means a lot to him so therefore it is my job to support him.”
Forsyth is never alone, however, as her sister, Katie, is married to Aaron Brenner, the Manager of Production for Kings Vision. The sisters often watch and attend games together while their other halves are working.
“I like sports to begin with, and it is hard not to get excited watching hockey,” said Forsyth, who is not the only bride planning an upcoming Kings staff wedding.
Kings Ice Crew member Michelle Aguilar, in her fifth season with the Kings organization, is making plans for her own wedding to Shane Moses, a Lieutenant Helicopter Pilot, who is currently in the midst of a six-month deployment as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Aguilar worked the Kings’ official Game 1 watch party at ESPN Zone downtown, where she bruised her arm while jumping up to cheer for the Richards power play goal.
While most of the staff cheers on the Kings to postpone their summer vacation, Aguilar’s perspective is slightly more gripping.
“It means the end of an era for me, personally. It means saying goodbye to the uniform I have worn proudly for five seasons,” said Aguilar, who will pack up and move to San Diego, where Moses is stationed, upon the Kings’ playoff exit.
This brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘sudden death,’ as Aguilar attempts to hold on as long as possible to the organization through which she met Moses and five of her bridesmaids. In this respect, extra work from games and watch parties become Aguilar’s necessary life line.
Trading in Coachella tickets for playoff beards and six-day work weeks doesn’t sound like a deal any sane person would happily make. But one thing is for certain: it is this exceptional dedication and unmatched passion from Hankins, LeValley, Wiedmeier, Zager, Aguilar and all their colleagues that allow so many people – even the players on the ice – to enjoy the game they love.