The last time Shane Owen was in the Independence Events Center, he was in goal in a gut-wrenching 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Arizona Sundogs, who claimed the best-of-seven opening playoff series 4-2.
On Friday night, Owen and his Missouri Mavericks teammates said goodbye to more than 1,500 fans who started lining up outside the east door of the Events Center more than an hour before the 6 p.m. event began.
“What happened in that loss Tuesday night still hasn't sunk in,” said Owen, who sat at a table with rookies Tyler Currier and Anders Franzon as they signed autographs and posed for photos for more than two hours. “It still doesn't seem real. I still feel like we should be practicing, or preparing for another game.
“It was a tough loss, the toughest loss you can imagine. But tonight, I think the healing process begins. This is my first year with the Mavericks, and I always knew we had the best fans in the league. The fans who came tonight are amazing.
“They brought so much energy, and they just want to say goodbye, make sure we're doing well, and thank us for a great season. We've had great support all season, and tonight is as special as any event I've ever been a part of.”
Franzon, who established himself as one of the top rookie defensemen in the league, agreed with Owen.
“While the fans were thanking us, I was thanking them for coming out,” said Franzon, who scored the first goal of the season in the opener at St. Charles. “We had a lot of fun this season, and the fans were a big reason for all the fun we had.
“We wish it could have come after a big win, but we really want to thank them for coming out and making tonight so special.”
Another rookie, Currier, fought through an injury-plagued season that allowed him to spend much of his time visiting sites throughout Eastern Jackson County while his teammates were on the road.
“I love this area, I love the fans, I love everything about my first season as a Mav except the injuries and the way the season ended,” said Currier, who suffered a broken foot, sprained ankle and rib injuries this season. “This town makes me feel like an A-lister.
“Tonight is bittersweet for me, and I could tell it was bittersweet for most of the fans. We would not have had the success we had in the regular season without them. And I still get chills – look at these goose bumps – when I think of the way they stood and cheered and chanted for us after we lost Tuesday night. I loved them for that, and I still love them.”
The annual goodbye parties have become a part of veteran Colt King and Sebastien Thinel's postseason routine.
“We love our fans, and you can tell by the turnout tonight that they love us,” said King, who had hinted about retiring toward the end of the season. “A lot of the fans asked me if I was going to come back next season and I don't want a loss like Tuesday night's to be my last game, so … well, we'll see.”
While the loss was tough for 9-year-old fan Danielle Myers, getting Colt King's autograph made Friday night her feel special.
"Tuesday night I said, 'My life is over and I can't live anymore without Mavericks hockey,'" Danielle said, "but I feel better tonight, I'm still kind of sad, but I love meeting the players, especially Colt King and Colten Hayes."
Thinel, who is still seeking his first CHL championship and who is closing in on 1,000 career CHL points, said he will likely come back next season.
“When you are around great fans like the ones we have in Independence, you want to come back and play tomorrow,” he said as he corralled his young sons Maddx and Jett. “My family loves it here, and I hope to come back.
“I want to come to a goodbye party after a championship win. My wife Ashley keeps telling me that I have been too grumpy this week, and tonight, the fans have helped me feel better.”
Coach Scott Hillman feels the same way.
“This is a great part of the healing process,” said Hillman, who has led the Mavericks to the postseason in all five years they have been a part of the CHL. “Tuesday was tough, and our fans came out tonight and made us all feel better. I want to thank them for that and thank them for all they have done for me and the boys on the team the past five years. They are the best – they proved it again tonight.”