Talk about going out with a bang. The Missouri Mavericks wrapped up their home schedule on Tuesday night with a 5-1 thumping of the Brampton Beast. We’re all familiar with the line in “Miracle” when Herb Brooks gives his memorable pregame speech before the game versus Russia: “Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.” That was the feeling pulsing through the veins of The IEC on Tuesday night.
I know the cynics (and there are a lot of them) will downplay it, as Brampton isn’t as formidable as a foe as say Allen or Rapid City, but to be honest, I don’t think it would have mattered. The Mavs could do no wrong on this night. All of the things that fans (and myself) have criticized them for over the course of this arduous season seemed to melt away. They skated as hard as they did in the first game of the season. They hit with bone-rattling ferocity. They passed with precision and pace. The fired shot after shot, a few catching iron, and even more hitting twine. The selflessly laid down their bodies in front of blistering slapshots as if it was Game 7 of the Finals. They stood up for teammates. It was the ultimate way to say thank you to the Orange Army, who had packed that arena night after night, even through the toughest of times.
It’s hard not to think of what might have been if the Mavs had played like that over the course of the last six weeks, but that is not the case. With only two games remaining on the schedule, the long and depressing period of life sans Mavericks hockey is knocking on our doors. While on some level, we are all ready for this season to be over, the ramifications of so are heart-wrenching. It is quite possible that we’ve seen the end of some of our favorites. Players like Scott Langdon, Matt Stephenson, and the legendary John-Scott Dickson could very well hang up the skates after this weekend’s trip to the Great White North. Judging by the emotion in the locker room on Tuesday night, it is obvious that there are some highly respected players that are doing just that. I’ve been down in that locker room on four different occasions when the Mavericks season has come to an end. Tuesday night was different. There was a different type of finality in the air. It was suffocating. To watch these mountainous men, that we all hold in such high regard, shed tears, snap pictures, and exchange embraces was unlike anything that I’ve encountered in the hundreds of times I have done postgame coverage. Tuesday night was about much more than the final home game of the 2014-15 campaign.
Driving home on Tuesday night, I made a decision. Every season I take a couple of games off, mostly because I enjoy a few games from the stands with friends and/or family. It is important to me to never forget that I am a fan first and foremost, and it helps keep my priorities straight. For the first time in my tenure as The Sin Bin, I will intentionally not cover the next and final two games of the season. I refuse to do so. It is not because of any prior commitments or obligations. It is not because I’ll be sitting in the stands. It is not a sign of animosity or frustration over a disappointing season. I refuse to watch the final two games of the season because I want to remember the 2014-15 Missouri Mavericks as the team that I watched on Tuesday night. I want to remember Colten Hayes, Stephenson, and JSD throwing their bodies in front of cannon blasts, even though they had a comfortable four-goal lead. I want to remember Geoff Walker busting his ass, catching a Brampton forward from behind, even though he was a good 50 feet behind him. I want to remember Mike Clemente turning away shot after shot, and then joking about the softy that he gave up after the game. I want to remember Hayes and Tyson Gimblett reminding Brett Lyon that you don’t go after Andrew Courtney unless you’re willing to pay the price. I want to remember talking with players after the game, and they all could barely choke out the words when asked about what a guy like JSD means to this team and organization. I want to remember Courtney applauding the fans, and tapping his stick at center ice on the Mavs emblem, honoring the Orange Army one last time this season. That is the team that I want to think about for the next six months.