Missouri Mavericks forward Sebastien Thinel has enjoyed a fairy-tale life in the Central Hockey League.
The reigning CHL MVP and scoring champion has a trophy case full of hardware, a wife with movie-star good looks and two boys who beg their dad to spend more time on the ice than anywhere else.
But he is missing one thing that will cement his legacy as one of the league's true greats – a ring.
"That's a big reason I am back this year," said Thinel, who spent much of the summer in Independence with wife Ashley and their young sons, Maddx and Jett. "I now consider Independence and Eastern Jackson County my home, and there is nothing that will please me as much as bringing a championship to our great fans."
Thinel, 34, helped the Mavericks reach Game 7 of the league semifinal series the past two years, and each time they came up short against the team that would go on and claim the crown.
"We hope to have a different outcome this year," Thinel said after an early-morning workout at the Independence Events Center. "It's just so good to be here because Independence offers so much. We love the schools, we can go see the Royals and Chiefs, and the more time you spend in a community, the easier it becomes on you and your family."
Thinel also was an MVP player for the now-defunct Odessa Jackalopes in the CHL, where he starred for eight seasons.
"I tried to get Sebbie to come here as soon as Odessa no longer had a team," said Mavericks coach Scott Hillman, who played alongside Thinel in Odessa. "He is one of those rare players who make everyone else on the ice that much better. He has a great presence on the ice, in the locker room and in the community.
"We are really excited about him coming back this season. He's going to mean so much to our team – and this year, we hope to take it another step and make the championship round of the playoffs."
Thinel said Hillman, the Mavericks front office, his teammates and the community are reasons he returned this season – along with his quest to get that elusive championship ring.
"Independence is a big city, with a small-town feel," said Thinel, who finished last season with 96 points. “I never thought I could feel about another community the way I feel about Odessa – because we were there for eight years – but I feel the same way about Independence.”
And he feels right at home with the Mavericks.
“We are all excited about the team Scott and Brent (Thiessen, team president) are putting together,” Thinel said. “My old Odessa teammate (Mike Ramsay) is coming to the Mavericks, and we have nine guys back from last year’s team.
Page 2 of 2 - “The Mavericks have done such a good job building this organization that now, in its fifth year, you can start bringing back the core players along with the newcomers who will also play a big role in our success.
“I can’t wait for camp to open (Oct. 7), because there aren’t going to be a lot of players there. Most of the guys are going to have a good shot at making the team and helping us reach our goal.”
While a ring is Thinel’s only real goal this season, he knows his role might change. Last year, he was the set-up man for rookies like Kenton Miller and Kellan Tochkin (who are no longer with the team).
“If Scott wants me to try and score more this season, I will,” Thinel said. “I will go out and play my game – scoring, setting up my teammates, whatever it takes to help us win a championship.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC