August 21, 2009 in City

Rowdy Shock fans also value friends on field

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

John Taylor and his wife, Becky, will pack their four children into their Shock-themed SUV for the drive to Las Vegas for Saturday’s arenafootball2 championship game. Taylor holds season ticket No. 1. “The kids and I, we’re just super-excited,” Taylor said.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Scores of Spokane Shock fans will descend on Las Vegas this weekend for the equivalent of arenafootball2’s Super Bowl.

But for one Shock fan, just being able to watch the game from his hospital bed could be thrilling enough. Henry Wozow, 68, is emerging from a coma of several weeks, and several players – who have formed relationships with him and his family – hope they can help boost his recovery with a win Saturday.

“They said, ‘We’re doing it for Henry,’ ” said Deron Nicholson, Wozow’s son-in-law, business partner and fellow Shock fanatic. “That’s pretty cool. … I’ve gone from being a fan to a friend to really like family.”

Nicholson’s flying to Vegas today for the game. He said Wozow will watch live video of the game online, with help from his grandson.

As the Shock prepare to play for the arenafootball2 championship, they’ll draw several hundred fans to Sin City in support – and those personal relationships are one big reason for that, fans say. The team’s home games are renowned for big, rowdy crowds, and supporters hope to make themselves known at Saturday’s game.

John Taylor, president of the team’s booster club, is loading up his family – his wife, Becky, and four kids – and making the 16 1/2-hour drive to Las Vegas. Taylor is a Spokane native who first came across arena football while attending college in San Francisco in the 1990s.

“The kids and I, we’re just super-excited,” said Taylor, whose SUV is a rolling Shock promotion. “If you came to our house, it’d be hard to pick out who the biggest fan is – even our 4-year-old.”

Taylor said he expects several hundred Spokane fans to make the trip. Nicholson estimated that he knew of 500 to 600 people going.

Nicholson and Wozow have been big Shock fans from the start. They’ve invited players to their lake cabin, and when quarterback Nick Davila’s little brother came to town, they “took care of him like he was one of their own,” Davila said. Nicholson attended Davila’s wedding.

So when Wozow fell ill with pneumonia earlier this summer, and then was placed into a drug-induced coma so his lungs could heal, Davila and several other players paid him a visit.

“I wanted to pay respects,” Davila said, adding that he’d like to give the family some good news with a Shock win Saturday. “It’d be nice to give the family some positive outlook.”

Wozow’s lungs have healed, but he faces a long recovery to regain his strength, said his wife, Pattie Wozow. She said all the support from the players, including a signed game ball for him, has been uplifting.

“They are supporting him, just like we’ve tried to support them,” she said.

Spokane fans have rushed to get tickets and packages for the game since the Shock beat Tulsa last Saturday to qualify for the ArenaCup. The fact that the game is in Vegas, which has more than a few entertainment options, is an added inducement.

Taylor said he’s looking forward to seeing some of the big casinos and attractions on the Strip, and letting his kids investigate a water park while he checks out a poker game.

Nicholson, on the other hand, said he’s not planning on seeing too many Vegas sights. He’s been to past championships with the team and wants to absorb the atmosphere.

“For me, it’s really just for the Shock,” he said. “The ArenaCup pretty much consumes you. It’s like a mini Super Bowl.”

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