Greg Neubauer and his family couldn't wait to grab a hot dog and talk hockey at the first Missouri Mavericks Summer Games and Tailgate Party at the Independence Events Center Saturday afternoon.
The longtime season ticket holder had no idea, though, that they would be able to do both at the same time as first-year head coach Richard Matvichuk and team president Brent Thiessen manned the hot dog tent for the five-hour event.
“The kids wanted hot dogs, and we get up to the tent and there's Brent and the coach - that was pretty impressive,” said Neubauer, whose son Rhen plays for the Jr. Mavericks program while his daughter, Evan April, is a figure skater at the Centerpoint Community Ice.
“We've gotten to know Brent and Scott (Hillman, the former Mavericks head coach) because Rhen skated with their boys at different times with the Jr. Mavs. And they are so personable, just like the players.
“There were always Mavericks players coming to practices and Simon Watson (a former Maverick player who now works with the Jr. Mavs program) is great with the kids, too. Having something like this, and having the coach and Brent serve the food so they can meet all the fans is pretty special.
“I haven't had the chance to talk to the new coach, but I hear great things about him and am looking forward to the start of the season.”
Tom Awe, who is president of the team's fan club, attended with his family, and echoed Neubauer's words.
“I don't want to wish the summer away,” said Awe, who was eating at a picnic table with his son William and daughter Anjelica, “but I wish the season were here today. This is a great event and I am 100 percent sold on Coach Matvichuk. Everyone I've talked to is really excited about the upcoming season.”
When he wasn't busting Thiessen's chops or treading quips with fans, Matvichuk was answering an array of questions that dealt with a new goaltender to the trio of players that would be announced later in the day Saturday (story on Page 1B).
“You can tell how passionate our fans are,” Matvichuk said. “It's a hot day, and they're out here standing in line for hot dogs and ready to talk hockey. You gotta love that. I think they're going to be happy with the announcements today and we're not done.
“We're done for a while, and I like where we stand as a team, but we're going to bring a lot more talent to this team. I promise that.”
The event featured a series of games, face painting, drawings for prizes and the chance to visit with players Andrew Courtney and Evan Vossen, who attended the event.
“I just love coming to events like this,” Courtney said, “because it gives me the chance to visit with the best fans in the Central Hockey League. Every fan who has come up to me has said the same thing, 'I wish the season started today.' So do I.”