The long line of appreciative fans snaked its way through the Missouri Mavericks Team Store and out the door onto the sidewalk at the Independence Events Center.
They were there to congratulate Mavericks defenseman Henrik Odegaard for being named to Norway's national Olympic hockey team.
Mavs fan Frank Spevak – a season ticket holder from Independence who says goodbye to the team on each of its road trips and greets the Mavericks with a blast on his air horn when they return to the IEC in the wee hours of the morning – waited more than 40 minutes just to shake Odegaard's hand.
“I know I'm going to be watching him play for Norway when the game is on TV,” Spevak said Wednesday night. “I just wanted to thank him for being a Mav and tell him that I'm proud as hell of him making the Olympics and playing here in Independence.”
Raytown ticket holder Brianna Bauer waited in line to congratulate her favorite Maverick, who seemed thrilled to see her homemade shirt which read, “I'M CHEERING FOR NORWAY.”
“Henrik is such a nice guy,” said Bauer, whose parents have season tickets, “so I made this shirt as soon as I found out he made Norway's team. He works so hard on the ice and always seems to have a big smile on his face. They're all nice, but he's just extra nice.”
Bauer's mother Donna backed that statement.
“I don't want to start crying, but this team is very special to our family,” Donna Bauer said. “My husband lived in Alaska for 14 years, so we follow Tyler Currier (a native of Anchorage), too. The players are so nice and so accessible, and it was just so much fun to come tonight and congratulate Henrik on making his country's hockey team.”
Tracy Rogers, a season ticket holder from Kansas City, made the trek to wish Odegaard good luck, but not too much good luck.
“I told Henrik we were wishing him good luck and we were cheering for him personally,” Rogers said, “but when Norway plays the United States, we're cheering for the USA. He told us, 'That's fair.' We're really proud of him.”
The team store sold out of its stock of more than 40 adult Odegaard Maverick/Norway logo long-sleeved shirts and a large stack of photos, and one lucky fan had the high bid on a game-used Odegaard stick.
“We're thrilled with the response,” said Madeleine Stroth, the team's public relations representative who made cookies that resembled the Norway flag for the event. “When Henrik walked in and saw all the fans he didn't know what to think. He was really surprised.”
After signing photos, jerseys, shirts, posing for pictures and doing a quick television interview, Odegaard talked about the whirlwind event.
“I had no idea what to expect, and this was just amazing,” said Odegaard, who will leave for the Olympics on Feb. 2 or 3. “There is nothing more special than representing your country in the Olympics, and now, I can represent Norway and the Missouri Mavericks.”