One. One man. One hockey player. One leader. One legend. It’s an insignificant number in hockey lore; numbers 9, 66, and 99 playing much bigger roles. Yet, one is a number bearing much more significance in Missouri Mavericks history, as only one player has played 300 games wearing the familiar black and orange sweater. He is Mr. 300, Andrew Courtney.
Turn back the clock to March of 2011, and you’ll find a baby-faced college kid from Belleville, Ontario getting off a plane in Kansas City. He literally dropped everything to come play hockey for a Central Hockey League team in a town the only things he knew about were the two professional teams playing down I-70 at the Truman Sports Complex. The 6 foot 3 inch winger would wear the #28 black sweater for the Scott Hillman coached Missouri Mavericks in only their second season of existence. The team needed depth at the forward position and little was thought of the signing at the time. The Mavericks had seen a slew of players come and go in those first two seasons, so this was a temporary stopgap at best. Or so we thought…
At 220 pounds, Courtney brought size to the forward position, but with hands as smooth as silk and a shot as accurate as a Michael Jordan fadeaway this “kid” gave that team what it needed when it needed it; a goal scorer. Every natural goal scorer has a night where they put their God-given gifts on full display and what began as a celebration of a hat trick will end with the #27 hanging from the rafters of the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Mavs fans from those early years still get goosebumps and smile when they see an orange cowboy hat. The low hanging pumped fist celly would make John Scott proud and as he donned that orange cowboy hat and skated around the rink, the legend was born.
Fan favorites from those Central Hockey League years were easy to come by. The roster movement settled down considerably and Mavs fans became comfortable with their hometown heroes. The players knew a lot of the die-hard fans by their first names and the bonds ran deep both ways. When a player departed, the Orange Army lost a family member but through it all was the familiar #27 suiting up game after game. Even as the captains’ shadows of Carlyle Lewis and Sebastian Thinel were cast over the Mavs, Courtney became a leader by example. From warm-ups with bubble gum in full assault mode to skating by and spraying snow on whatever unsuspecting group of school age children are singing the national anthem that night, the legend of Andrew Courtney may rival that of Ron Burgundy.
On a team made of baby-faced “kids”, that can only serve as a reflection of himself not too long ago, he is the elder statesman. As the lone holdover on this team from the old Central Hockey League days, it is more noticeable how his game has changed. Once an assassin from the wing, it is much more likely to find Courtney down by the blue paint these days waging war in what he calls “the dirty areas.” The result though, is the same with the puck finding the back of the net more times than not. It still brings the home crowd to the edge of their seat when you see #27 target lock on an imposing player and deliver another cruise missile check into the boards. Stick around to the end of a practice and you’ll find the veteran chatting it up and posing for pictures with adults and kids alike because that’s what legends do. Rumor has it that the week his bobblehead was being given away, he bobbled his head throughout practice. Why? Because that’s what legends do. Legends only come along once in a great while and they should be treasured and enjoyed while they are among us.
So, Mr. 300, we raise our orange cowboy hats to you and salute your milestone achievement.