It was 2009 and rumors of a new hockey team in Kansas City had been swirling. Finally, the announcement was made that yes, we would have a Central Hockey League team coming to Independence to play in the new incredible new venue being built directly beside I-70, the Independence Events Center. Being a fan of the Kansas City Blades when I was a much younger lad (anybody else remember the four tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks for $40 deal from the KC Star?), my love of hockey had never really faded, just subsided due to lack of local teams to support. But now, there was new found love to be had with this new team coming to Independence. As an eager new father I thought of all the games I would take my son to and how we’d make all these memories together. It was an incredible time to be a hockey fan in Kansas City. When the team had their first ever open-to-the-public activity at the Pepsi Midwest Center in Olathe for the inaugural Black and Orange scrimmage, I bundled up my little 10 month old and sat with my wife and about 20 other people to watch the first professional hockey to be played in KC since the Blades had faded into oblivion as a distant memory. It was love at first sight, however, little did I know how it would continue to grow.
Skip ahead a few weeks to the first home game for this new team, the Missouri Mavericks. 5800 people packed the IEC to see the first of many epic games with the Wichita Thunder. A rivalry had already developed between these two teams after several early season matchups in Wichita while the IEC awaited completion. Tempers had flared many times during those tilts and this first home game for the newest professional franchise in Kansas City would prove no different. Opening faceoff brought the first home fight in Mavs history as Carlyle Lewis dropped the gloves literally one second into the game. In that moment, a community fell in love with a franchise. After a thrilling home-opening win, hockey was back and we knew it was going to be special. The playoffs became the expectation and Carlyle Lewis, Dave “Chezy” Pszenyczny, David Simoes, Charlie Effinger, Colt King, Sebastian “Sebby” Thinel, and the beloved orange-cowboy-hat-wearing Andrew Courtney became the heroes of men, women, and children in this fair town.
The moments I would have with my first son those first few seasons have now become moments that I share and treasure with my all three of my sons (Kahne, Graeme and Bodie). Whether watching a game at home on TV or in the friendly confines of the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, when the horn sounds my boys know to shout the familiar Steve Garrett call of “Missouri Mavericks GOAL!” quickly followed by “That’s goal number one in the Backyard Burgers six goal shootout”. For my youngest son, his order of words learned were mama, dada, Jack (our dog), and hockey. Mac is a beast to be both feared and loved in our family and “Let’s Go Mavericks” is an accepted greeting at all times. The Mavs owe me nothing, and yet I owe them more than I could ever fully explain to the Average Joe. They’ve provided my family entertainment and wonderful opportunities for myself and my children to connect with the players we love to watch.
When I look at this year’s team, it is indeed special. The affiliation with the Islanders has provided opportunities to acquire talent unlike any we’ve witnessed in the young history of our franchise. The grit and determination of Rocco Carzo as he dumps and chases the puck to the corner, the pinpoint accuracy of every wrist shot from Tyler Barnes, and the veteran Andrew Courtney showing strength and a willingness to go to war in front of the net has truly ushered in a new era of what has been appropriately branded “hoKCey” in Kansas City. The ownership of Lamar Hunt Jr. has solidified this franchise as one that will be around for many years to come. His dedication to this organization, the fans, and the community mirrors what his father accomplished just a few miles down the road. Mavs fans, the best is yet to come. Enjoy the ride while we’ve got it and watch for a four tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks for $40 offer to take in a game. Oh, the Buckstops…that was my entry for the team naming contest back in 2009. The buck stops here.