Cue the music: “Another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, another one’s gone, another one bites the dust. . .”
The domino affect has claimed another victim in the Central Hockey League as 24 hours after Denver said it would be dormant this season, the Arizona Sundogs have also gone dormant for the upcoming season. Both teams hope to be a part of the CHL in 2015.
So, will there be a 2014-15 CHL season?
Has new Missouri Mavericks coach Rich Matvichuk spent the past month or so assembling players for naught?
Has the value of a Missouri Mavericks season ticket taken a hit?
These are some of the questions that are circulating in Eastern Jackson County, along with some rumors that team president and general manager Brent Thiessen was happy to address in his office at the Independence Events Center Thursday afternoon.
“As we speak, the league is working on our 2014 schedule and it will be announced next week,” said Thiessen, who has been hammered with phone calls and emails since the two CHL teams went dormant over the past 24 hours.
“We had two teams with shaky attendance numbers the past couple of seasons go dormant, and there is a big difference between dormancy and folding. They hope to be back in a year, and we hope they are.”
But Thiessen acknowledged those moves have fueled a series of rumors about the league folding, and other issues that would affect the Mavericks.
“First, I want to tell our fans that the Mavericks are moving forward and will be a part of the CHL this season,” Thiessen said. “Second, we will have a seven-team league that will be especially strong because of all the (free-agent) players who are no longer a part of the Cutthroats or Sundogs.
“And third, we expect changes after this season. Do we know what those changes will be? No. Do we like what has happened with the CHL and the loss of teams? No. What will happen to the CHL? I will be totally honest with you and your readers and tell them that at this point of the year, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows.
“But we would have not hired a new head coach, signed players and collected money on season tickets if there was not going to be a 2014 season. We are going to be playing hockey in the Independence Events Center - I promise you that!”
I hope the hard-core bloggers, text messagers and email elite pay attention to what Thiessen is saying. The Mavericks are not leaving town.
I feel badly for the hockey fans who have lost their franchises to dormancy, but do you think the Mavericks could get a player like Garett Bembridge, the reigning CHL MVP, if the Cutthroats had not declared dormancy?
The loss of two teams – actually three, if you count the now-defunct St. Charles Chill franchise – means that talent pool is condensed and the successful franchises are going to be loaded with more talent because of the new players on the market.
Despite the influx of new free-agent talent, Thiessen is not happy about the recent turn of events.
“Am I happy we lost the franchise in St. Charles and that Denver and Arizona have gone dormant? No!” Thiessen said. “Will there be more changes down the road? Probably, but I know the 2014-15 schedule will be announced next week and Coach Matvichuk and this organization are working hard to make this a championship year for this franchise.”
If the CHL was smart, it would hold a seminar and make it mandatory that every front office staffer attend. There, Thiessen and his award-winning staff could tell how they took a non-hockey community and created a love affair that is as strong as it was five years ago when the team came to the Events Center.
The Mavericks have made the playoffs every year of their existence, and they offer fans a total entertainment package that pleases the kids and non-hockey fans as much as the purists and hockey fanatics.
Thiessen puts his coach and players in the community, where they are pumping gas next to Maverick fans and eating at the same restaurants. They are reading to their kids in elementary schools and signing autographs after games – win or lose.
The fans are watching “their boys” out on the ice, not a professional hockey team that places its players on a pedestal that is too tall for most fans to climb.
When the team wins, they all rejoice. When they lose, they pat their boys on the back and wish them luck the next day.
The Mavericks have as many fans at some practices as some of the teams that have folded over the past five years, had at actual games.
“Believe me,” team captain and former CHL MVP Sebastien Thinel said, “it’s no fun playing in an arena with 400 fans. That’s why teams love to play here. That’s why players who are looking for a team want to come to Missouri. We have something special here, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
When the Mavericks played their first season back in 2009-10, there were 15 teams in the CHL. The weak are no longer a part of the league. The strong – headlined by the CHL Franchise of the Year the past four years – have survived.
This might be the final season for the CHL, but it will not be the last season for the Mavericks. And what better way to celebrate the legacy of the strongest team in the league than by winning the first championship in team history?
It’s the only honor that has avoided Thiessen and Co., and he is doing everything he can to make it a reality this year.
So why not hold off on the emails, tweets and other distractions so he can get to work and deal with the reality of getting ready for a new season and bringing the title to Independence.
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC