Tyler Elbrecht is the Kansas City Mavericks enforcer.
When the big defenseman skates out on the ice, momentum swings in favor of his team as his presence always gives the Mavericks a bit more confidence and swagger.
But last week, at the second-annual Kansas City Mavericks Skate and Sled adaptive needs hockey clinic, he wasn’t even close to being the toughest skater at Silverstein Eye Centers community ice rink.
“There’s one of the toughest skaters out here,” the smiling Elbrecht said, as he points to 8-year-old Layna Talbott, who was on an adaptive skating sled that was being pushed around the rink by the Mavericks mascot, Mac. “Do you know what she’s been through?
“Look at these kids. Look at their parents. They’re the tough ones out on the ice tonight. I’m not even close! And that’s why I love being a part of an event like this. I had a blast. Some of these kids and their parents have never been on the ice, and I think they all had a great time.
“I know that I had a great time and so did the other guys from the team.”
Deb Weibrecht, the executive director of Variety KC, spent the evening helping youngsters get into the adaptive gear, giving them and their parents encouragement and thanking the Mavericks for this special event.
“Just look at all those smiles,” said Weibrecht, as she personally thanked every parent, child and member of the Mavericks staff for participating. “Did you see the kids’ faces light up when the players came out on the ice? I can’t thank James (Arkell, the son-in-law of Mavericks owner Lamar Hunt Jr.) and the Mavericks enough for helping with this.
“It’s kismet – it’s a blessing. Through fundraising and the generosity of people in Kansas City, we were able to purchase 30 adaptive sleds and 30 walkers for the kids to get out on the ice. And you can see that they’re all having a great time.”
Tears swelled in the eyes of Katherine Talbott, the mother of Layna, who was a big hit among the Mavericks players and Mac.
“So often times, these children are left out of events like this,” the appreciative mother said. “Now, young people with cerebral palsy, like my daughter, can be included in skating events. She has been through so much, and I can see how much fun she is having tonight. What a blessing.”
Stephen Slade and his 17-year-old son Stephen were two of the most vocal participants in the event.
“This is our first time on the community ice, although I have brought my son to several games,” the father said, as young Stephen clapped his hands and smiled.
“Stephen, what’s your favorite part of the Mavericks games?”
The youngster quickly answered, “The goal horn!”
They both grinned.
“Tonight, Stephen had the opportunity to experience what the players experience when they skate out on the ice,” he father added, “and I can’t thank the Mavericks and Variety KC enough for making this happen. This is a lifetime memory for both of us.”
It was a special memory for Mavericks defenseman Bryce Aneloski, too.
“People think professional hockey players have it tough, and it’s nothing compared to what these kids and their families go through on a daily basis,” Aneloski said, as he distributed parting gifts to the youngsters.