INDEPENDENCE, MO- As we embark on the yearly pilgrimage through the holiday season it is easy to get caught up in food preparation, gift giving, holiday party obligations, secret Santa gifts and elves on shelves. However, as we celebrate all the things we are thankful for this week, I encourage each of you to take a step back and think about the things you’re truly thankful for.

As a hockey writer, father, teacher, worship pastor, friend, uncle, brother, and son, I have much to be thankful for. There are the obvious things; my beautiful wife, three sons, my brother, my nephews, my parents, my friends, and a job I enjoy going to. But, for this occasion let’s look at things we should all be thankful for in the world of hockey.

Doc Emrick- My goodness, if you’re not thankful for this national treasure you deserve to be reefed…or waffleboarded…or freight-trained. Trust me, I have no idea what half of Doc says even means, but I could listen to him call paint drying and still be excited to listen to it. The man is special in the way he can accurately describe the action in a sport full of fire wagon changes and pucks being rifled along.

The Missouri Mavericks- Where to even start…eight years ago the Mavericks became a thing and Lord knows I’m thankful for it. The Kansas City area hadn’t had consistent pro hockey for quite some time and this Central Hockey League team brought a fan base out of hibernation and created a hockey culture in a town that had none. Walk around town pretty much any day of the year and you’ll see Mavericks apparel worn by young and old. The most encouraging thing the Mavericks have done is bringing youth hockey together and creating a core of future pro hockey players right here in our little cowtown.

Gary Bettman- Yeah, never mind. Pretend I didn’t type that.

Seriously, that never happened.

Guys that play with grit- Yeah, I’m looking at you Rocco Carzo, Andrew Courtney, Bryce Aneloski, Dave Pszenyczny, Colt King, Carlyle Lewis and a host of other gritty players I’ve had the chance to observe over the years. You guys make hockey what it is; the greatest sport on earth. In a world full of excuses you’ve never offered one. Take a slapper to mid-section, get up, go right back out and do it again. You guys do all the little things and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Reed Seckel Things- Speaking of guys with grit, Reed gets his own section. If you’ve never watched this guy for a few shifts and just watched him line up his next victim in the corner, do it. Don’t question why, just do it. This guy is so much fun to watch. I call the things he does “Reed Seckel Things” simply because I have no other way to describe what he does. It’s all the little things every team needs. Reed, thanks for being awesome.

Steve Martinson- I’ll give the guy credit, four championships in a row is impressive. The explosions on the bench, however, are a sideshow worth the price of admission. I swear he’s going to pop a vein over there one day. Breathe, Coach, breathe.

The Winter Classic- Hockey, good. Outside hockey, better. I shall cherish my St. Louis Blues’ victory over the Blackhawks on January 2nd, 2017. Let’s Go Blues!!!

John Scott- Scott represents all of the career third and fourth liners that never thought they had a chance to get All-Star recognition. MVP! MVP! MVP!

Roller Hockey- I know…us roller hockey guys catch a lot of flack. Somehow seen as inferior to our ice playing friends, roller hockey has afforded this writer the chance to play hockey again over the last few years. I grew up playing roller hockey since there wasn’t a sheet of ice within 100 miles of my boyhood home. Hours upon hours of time spent rolling up and down a basketball court are some of my fondest memories. I’ve picked it back up the last couple of years and I’ve met some pretty incredible people in doing so.

Crazy Player Superstitions- Ever noticed how Andrew Courtney is the last player to leave the ice at the end of pregame warmups for the Mavericks? He always shoots a full ice shot at the opposing goal before leaving the ice. He also sprays ice on the young students that sing the national anthem at each home game. Just watch sometime, you’ll see it. Other players I’ve talked to have their own as well. Rocco Carzo always takes a nap and eats pasta before a game. Players are weird about these things, but I guess whatever you need to get ready for a game.

Playoff Beards- Thankful for this simply because as I lose all my hair on top of my head, the playoffs give me a reason to stretch no shave November all the way into June.

The Sin Bin- I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this awesome group of folks I get to write and collaborate alongside. Joe Rozycki and Matt Harding have a pretty sweet vision for what this thing can become and I’m incredible blessed to be a part of it. My mom reminded me recently that back in first grade I said I wanted to be an author. Who would have thought at the age of 34 I’d finally realize that dream and have the opportunity to share life and hockey with all of our awesome readers. This is the best non-paying job I’ve ever had. Ha. Ha.

In all seriousness though, enjoy all that we have. The moments you’ll share with your friends and family will be the ones you’ll cherish in years to come. Life is short, as I was reminded by the passing of a friend at the age of 23 a few weeks ago. Live each moment to its fullest and be thankful for all we have. Happy Thanksgiving, Sin Bin!

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