When I walked into Tim's Pizza on Tuesday, Jeff Webb came from behind the counter and asked, “Have you ever seen anything like Danny Waltman’s performance Sunday afternoon?”
At first, I was a bit surprised. Here was the most passionate Kansas City Chiefs fan I know – during a time when the team is losing free agents like coins at a slot machine – asking about the Missouri Comets.
Waltman was Houdini, Karl Walenda and Batman all rolled into one Sunday afternoon as his acrobatic performance led the Comets to a 20-6 victory over the Milwaukee Wave in the first game of the MISL playoffs.
The two teams then traveled to Milwaukee, where the Wave won 12-9, which set up a 15-minute mini-game that decided the winner of the semifinal series. Behind two goals from Brian Harris and another magical performance from Waltman, the Comets won 6-2.
That sets up a 7:35 p.m. game against No. 1 Baltimore Friday at the Independence Events Center to open the championship series, and if Webb is talking about it, there must be a buzz in the city that is witnessing a renaissance of sports unlike any the metro area has seen since 1993.
This is the fourth year the latest version of the Comets have been in existence, and they have reached the playoffs all four years and the championship series the past two years.
And they share the same building with a team that has created as much passion as any I have witnessed in 32 years at The Examiner. The Missouri Mavericks lead the CHL with 78 points and are the Central Hockey League’s Franchise of the Year the past three seasons.
It took president Brent Thiessen and coach Scott Hillman five years to build a team that appears to be on its way to a championship series.
The Comets and the Mavericks are not the Kansas City Royals or Chiefs, but they are our own hometown heroes who have given their respective fans enough thrills and chills in a short time span to last a lifetime.
The Chiefs have not won a playoff game since the oh-so-short glory days of Joe Montana and Marcus Allen back in 1993 – folks, that 21 years ago. They have not been in a Super Bowl since 1970. I was a sophomore in high school when Lenny the Cool and the Chiefs downed the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 24-7.
And it took George Brett, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen and Co., to bring home the lone World Series championship in 1985. The team has not sniffed postseason play since that time, although this season brings an air of promise we have not experienced since Brett and his glory days teammates provided from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.
One day we will all look back on this period as the glory days of sports at the Events Center, where the Comets and the Mavericks have wildly exceeded everyone’s expectations.
I just wish the Comets had a more central base in Eastern Jackson County. Their offices are in Kansas, their players live near the airport and they practice at the Soccer Dome in North Kansas City.
The Mavericks live right here in Independence, their offices are at the Events Center and they pump gas next to us, shop at the same stores we frequent and sit and chat with us at places like Tim's Pizza, Plowboys and all the restaurant chains near their apartments and the Events Center.
“This is home,” said team captain Sebastien Thinel, who is spending more time in Independence and less in his offseason home in Odessa, Texas. “We love it here. My wife and my boys love it here. And there is nothing we would rather do than bring a championship to our fans and our friends.”
Vahid Assadpour, the captain of the Comets, feels much the same way.
“It takes a team four years to build a championship-caliber team,” said Assadpour, who scored the final goal in Monday night’s mini-game victory. “We want to share a championship with everyone in the metro area. Our fans have done a great job supporting our team this season, and we believe we can win a championship.
“Baltimore poses a great challenge, but we have never backed down from a challenge.”
Neither have the Mavericks, who were the first team in the CHL to clinch a playoff spot this season. With Tuesday night’s dramatic 5-4 shootout win over second-place Rapid City, Hillman’s team gave itself a bit of breathing room heading into a three-game series in Brampton this weekend.
“We are fighting for home ice throughout the playoffs,” Hillman said. “Our first goal was getting into the playoffs. We were fortunate enough to be the first team in the league to do that. Our second goal is to finish in first place.
“But the only goal that really matters is bringing a championship home to the best fans in the CHL. Every game we play, for the rest of the regular season, is huge. Each game will have a playoff feel, and that will help the team as we head into the playoffs.
“We have gone from an expansion team that made far more (personnel) changes than we ever planned to a team that has been solid from day one this season. This team is special, and we want to give our fans something special – a championship.”
The Royals and Chiefs talk about championships, but have not delivered in decades. This season, the Events Center could be the home of two championship teams, and when that happens, we’ll have to change the name of Independence to Title Town, Mo.
Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC