Remember when you were little, and the end of the summer was approaching? You got that gut-wrenching feeling that the school year was just around the corner, and there was nothing that you could do about it. That inevitable feeling that the death of fun was near. The summer was beyond memorable. All of the shenanigans that you experienced with your buddies would be forever etched in your mind. But it didn’t take away from the fact that it felt like those great times flew by, and the fear of the unknown was starting to set in. That is about the best way I can put Tuesday’s news into context.
The funny thing is that it doesn’t even really scratch the surface. On Tuesday, the longtime captain of the Missouri Mavericks, Sebastien Thinel, announced that he would not be returning for his fifth season in orange. Instead, he would take the opportunity to play overseas as the clock on his decorated career is starting to tick. After all that he has done, not only in Missouri, but everywhere else that has been lucky enough to have him pull on their respective team’s sweater, he has earned the right to play anywhere he chooses. Unfortunately for the Orange Army faithful, he has skated his last stride inside the confines of The IEC.
We all have our own favorite memories of Sebby, and the amazing things that he could do with the puck on his stick. It is no coincidence that just about every player that was on his line during their stint with the Mavs ended up having the best years of the careers. It is no coincidence that when asked about their captain, his teammates would say things like “magician” or “unbelievable” or “the best.” While the move to the ECHL was an exciting day for hockey in Kansas City, it took away a feat that deserved to be celebrated in hockey lore. One more season in the Central Hockey League, and Thinel would have been the all-time leading scorer, going down as the best player in the league’s history. He deserved that. He deserves to be known as one of the greatest hockey players of all time at this level, and deserves to be talked about by the hockey community for all that he has accomplished. The CHL is now dust in the wind, and his time in the ECHL will just be a blip in the history books, but anyone who knows hockey knows that players like Sebby are rare, so rare that the stories will outlast any stat line stored in some database.
Stats courtesy of @MavsFanJoe
I will always remember the amazing things he did on the ice, but Sebby was so much more than that. He took a chance on a young franchise and an unproven coach (even if they were former teammates) when he signed here as a free agent years ago. We all looked at his stats and knew we were getting a star, but think back to all of the incredible things that the Odessa Jackalopes fans had to say about Thinel when he came here. Sure, a few of them were about his play, but most of them were about the kind of man he was, and what he brought to their community. We knew what type of player we were getting (the best one in the league), but we didn’t know what kind of man we were getting. It’s easy to say now that Thinel surpassed any expectation that we may have had, and the effect that he had on hockey in Kansas City will withstand the test of time. He embraced this community as his own. He spent countless hours with fans, talking with them as if they were friends for years. Kids stood in awe as he signed thousands of autographs, and adults helplessly grinned in admiration. When my niece, who was three years old at the time, told Sebby that he was her favorite hockey player, his response was “well you’re my favorite fan.” It was something that came so natural to him, yet he may never know the resounding effect. She still talks about that moment today, and it dethroned Bobby Clarke as my mom’s favorite player of all time, something that I never thought would happen, ever.
That is just a teeny, tiny example of the person that Sebastien Thinel is, and the legacy that he leaves behind. Thinel was a championship caliber player that captained championship worthy teams during his illustrious tenure in Independence. More importantly, he turned what could have been just another stop in his career into his home, and the Orange Army into his extended family. The Missouri Mavericks do not have any numbers hanging in their rafters (other than to honor Harry Truman) and do not have a Hall of Fame/Ring of Honor. I think there is a reason for that. You don’t start those traditions until you have someone like Thinel to open those gates. There will be a day that the greats of this franchise like David Simoes, Ryan Jardine, Colt King, and Andrew Courtney are honored, their numbers flying high above the ice at The IEC. However, that day will come once the number 43 opens the door.
So I say this now to Sebby, thank you. Thank you for bringing your magic to The IEC every night. Thank you for making people that had never watched a game of hockey in their lives fall in love with the game. Thank you for being the face of this franchise for so many years. Most of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to, one day, tell my grandchildren about the great Sebastien Thinel.