With a crowd of more than 200 fans sitting in the main bowl of the Independence Events Center, the Missouri Mavericks introduced Richard Matvichuk as the team's new head coach Thursday.
He comes to the Mavericks after a solid 14-year National Hockey League career. The former defenseman, who was an important part of the Dallas Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship squad, has served as the Allen Americans’ assistant coach and assistant general manager the past two seasons.
The Americans, one of the Mavericks' most fierce rivals, have won back-to-back Central Hockey League championships, and Matvichuk said bringing a championship to Independence is his top priority.
He was introduced to the Mavericks' most ardent fan base by team president and general manager Brent Thiessen and received a loud – and long – standing ovation.
“When Brent Thiessen offered me the position, I couldn't get back to the phone quick enough,” Matvichuk said. “Mavericks fans deserve a championship, and it's now my job to bring them one. We're going to win, and we're going to have a good time doing it.”
That comment left the fans cheering, and begging for more from a man whose intensity and love of the game was apparent from the moment he first walked from behind a large curtain onto center stage.
“Today is a very important day for the Missouri Mavericks, the start of the new era of Kansas City hockey,” Thiessen said, “and we're very proud to be here in Independence, and very proud of what we have accomplished, now it's time to write the next chapter.”
The man they have hired to pen that chapter was selected in the first round (eighth overall) by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to play for the Dallas Stars for 12 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 1999. He ranks eighth in all-time games played for the Stars.
He finished his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils in 2007, before joining the Allen coaching staff.
“Richard is a proven winner,” Thiessen said, “and when you think about all the success we have had here, the one thing that has eluded this organization is a championship.
“We had a short list of candidates that quickly grew to more than 100 résumés. I personally looked over each one, and narrowed them down to 10. I was looking for a coach with accountability – with the staff, his players and within the community.
“We wanted a coach with a hard-nosed style of play whose team has an aggressive style throughout the game.
“We were after a coach who is community minded. And we wanted a coach who knows how to win. We believe we have that coach in Richard Matvichuk.”
The Bud Poile Governors’ Cup sat on the table on the main podium at the Thursday morning news conference, signifying the Mavericks' 44 wins last season that were tops in the CHL.
“That cup's nice,” Matvichuk quipped, “but that's not the cup we're after. We're after the (Ray Miron) Presidents’ Cup. If the playoffs had been played in January of last season, instead of March, the Mavericks would have won that cup.
“They were the best team in the league in January. I don't know what happened at the end, but they weren't the same team they were in January. We're not going to let that happen next season.”