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Dear LA: My Path to Los Angeles

I'm privileged to be a part of the LA Kings; I couldn't imagine a better place to play hockey and raise my family

by Kyle Clifford @13KCliffy / LAKings.com

From day one, I knew I wanted to be a hockey player.

I grew up in Ayr, a small town in Ontario, where there wasn't a whole lot to do. So pretty much everyone played hockey.

I think my parents had me in skates on the pond when I was two or three, and then I started playing hockey at age four or five.

We had a small local rink and it was always, always buzzing. On any given day, it was the spot to be.

There were also plenty of kids who lived on our street, so every chance we could get together, we would be out on the street playing ball hockey.

It was just a lot of fun and I fell in love with the game.

I credit a lot of my character and playing style to my two older brothers. They used to beat the crap out of me, as any good older brothers would. It definitely played a role in me becoming a young man.

Things are a little different now at family gatherings, but I'd be willing to bet that if we were to square off, that I'd have the strong arm on them these days.

We've always been each other's biggest supporters and we still are to this day.

Since I can remember, hockey has always been my passion, but I don't think the reality of becoming a professional set in until just before the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Draft in 2007.

I knew some of the older kids who were drafted to the OHL and went on to have success and that was when it clicked for me that I could follow the same path. I put my entire focus into that - trying to become the best player that I could.

When the 2009 NHL Draft drew closer, I met with almost every team in the league. There were a few teams that were really interested in me, but to be honest, if I had the choice, there were only two teams that I really wanted to be a part of.

And the LA Kings were one of 'em.

Not only did they have great group of people within the organization, but they were instilling strong leadership values in the locker room. Meeting with Mike Futa (current Assistant General Manager) and Dean Lombardi (former General Manager) only solidified my decision.

So much so, that after the meeting I remember getting in the car telling my Dad, 'I'm going to LA.' They were creating a winning culture that they hoped would bring a Stanley Cup Championship to Los Angeles, and I wanted to be a part of it.

The night before the draft, I had a pretty good idea that I would become a member of the Kings. They had the fifth pick in the second round and I knew if I made it until that 35th spot, it was going to happen.

The 33rd pick went by…

The 34th pick went by…

"And with the 35th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, the LA Kings select…"

When my name was finally called, I was ecstatic.

My mom and dad were thrilled for me, as most parents would be. To have their son playing the game he loves for a great organization - they were happy to say the least. But they knew this was just the beginning.

I hugged them and headed down to the stage, where I would stay for the next two hours speaking to media, taking photos and meeting members of the organization. The whole weekend was a great process to be a part of.

Fast forward nine years, hundreds of games, three kids, countless friendships and two Stanley Cup Championships later… it turns out Futa and Lombardi were right.

Now, LA has become home.

Over that period of time, you get to know a lot of people and you become really involved in the community. LA is a great city and has a lot to offer, and it's become home to my family.

My wife, Paige, and I have raised our three kids here. Three boys, just like me and my brothers.

Will they be hockey players? Maybe. But Paige and I will support them in whatever they want to do, and we won't try to steer them in one direction.

The two older ones, though, they love going to games. It's the best part of their week. They come on Thursday and Saturday nights when we're playing at home, and it's fun to see how much they enjoy it.

Video: Teddy goes skating with Kyle and Brody Clifford

Not to mention, I've been lucky enough to have a great group of guys to play with. We've always stuck together, and we've become brothers over the past nine years. We're always there for each other, no matter what.

I'm privileged to be a part of the Kings, and mostly, I'm excited for what's to come.

As long as I'm playing hockey, this is where I want to play.

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