It's been two weeks since the Arizona Sundogs claimed a first-round series victory over the Missouri Mavericks in the Central Hockey League playoffs, ending the most successful – and heartbreaking – season in the five-year history of team that has captivated the heart and soul of Eastern Jackson County.
Now, that I can sit at a computer and write about the Mavericks, without going into a deep, deep depression, here are a few thoughts and shout-outs to the people who made the 2013-14 season so special.
THE UNSUNG HEROES: That's an easy one, and it goes to trainer Bill Murray and equipment manager Andrew Dvorak. Murray kept the players healthy and Dvorak kept them on the ice with his MacGyver-like attention to detail. The CHL has never seen a trainer like Murray – who has more than a decade of NHL experience – and Dvorak is the stuff legends are made of. Give him a piece of gum, some wire and a blow torch and he can keep a team going forever.
THE BRIGHTEST SMILE: Another easy award, and it goes to Mike Ramsay, who might be the friendliest human being on the planet. The first time I met the veteran forward, he smiled, shook my hand asked about my family. I have covered players for a decade who never smiled, shook my hand and asked about my family. Plus, he was one heck of a player.
THE STAR WARS OUT OF THIS WORLD AWARD: There can only be one winner, and it's Obi “Wan” Aduba. Aduba was a Maverick killer before he signed with the hometown team and he enjoyed the type of solid season that helped the team set all kinds of regular-season records.
THE OUCH THAT HURTS AWARD: Defenseman Matt Stephenson and forward John-Scott Dickson share this honor as they ended the season with bruises that would have put lesser men in the hospital. The way they dove into an oncoming puck to keep it from reaching the back of the net was a marvel to watch night after night. They inspired goaltender Shane Owen and every fan who really paid attention to their brilliance on the ice.
LEGEND AWARD: I believe legend is the most overused term in sports, and only one guy really fits that description on the Mavericks. Team captain Sebastien Thinel is a CHL legend and if he comes back for one more season – which I believe will happen – he can rewrite the league record book and take his place as the greatest player in the history of the league.
THE ROCK AWARD: Shane Owen was a rock in the net. He single-handedly won at least a dozen games for the Mavericks with his acrobatic style of play in the net. He was inspiration to his teammates, fans and anyone who watched him play. How have the Mavericks found goalies like Charlie Effinger, Robbie Nolan, Mike Clemente and Owen? Let's hope Owen is back next season, his future is so bright he will probably be wearing sunglasses with a new team.
TOUCH OF PRIDE AWARD: This one belongs to rookie defenseman Henrik Ødegaard, who made the 2014 Winter Olympics special for Mavericks fans as he represented his native Norway on hockey's biggest and grandest stage. To hear the Mavericks mentioned on an Olympic broadcast still makes me smile.
THE HE'S SO OFFENSIVE AWARD: Longtime fan favorite Andrew Courtney is the runaway winner after scoring a single-season team record 34 goals. The line of Thinel, Courtney and Eric Castonguay was the best in the CHL. We may never see another like that one at the Independence Events Center.
THE ACHY-BREAKY HEART AWARD: Goes to the Arizona Sundogs for ending the sooner about a month before I ever dreamed it would come to an end by finding a way to win back-to-back, double-overtime thrillers. I'm already counting the days until training camp starts, and I am sure Mavericks fans are, too. Someday, the Mavericks are going to raise the Cup in the IEC. I just hope that many of the players who made this past season so memorable are still around to enjoy that moment.
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