It’s impossible to tell who is more excited about tonight’s ECHL season opener that will usher in the Kansas City Mavericks ninth season – coach John-Scott Dickson or his players.

Following a spirited practice session early Thursday morning, Dickson and his squad packed their gear to hit the road for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game at Tulsa.

“After the longest offseason ever, it’s finally time to play for real,” said Dickson, whose team played an intrasquad game and then split two exhibition games in Allen, Texas, the past two weeks. “Not making the playoffs last season really made for a long offseason, but we got lot of work done, built a team with quality guys on and off the ice, and we’ve put in some good work.

“The boys are ready and so are Hoodie (assistant coach Kyle Hood) and I.”

As he spoke about the opener, Dickson grabbed a packed of ballots the players will use to vote for this year’s captain and associate captains.

“At first, I wasn’t really for the team voting, I thought Hoodie and I would select the captains,” Dickson said. “But Hoodie was all for the boys picking the captains and the more I talked with him about it, the more I agreed with him. The guys in the locker room know who the leaders are on this team, and we have a lot of them.

“We have so many players who wore the letter in college, in juniors or with other teams, so it’s going to be interesting to see who they select.”

Dickson then offered a little bit of insight into the building of a team and how a broken down bus really wasn’t a problem on the trip to Allen.

“Did you know our bus broke down on that trip?” Dickson asked. “It was kind of funny, because we wanted to see the boys play in a game, and not just practice, and we wanted to have a bonding experience, and the two hours we were waiting for the bus repairs, I didn’t hear anyone moaning or groaning or griping about the bus.

“It was kind of an added bonding time, and we made the most of it. I was happy to see how they reacted.”

One player who didn’t mind the extra time on the road with his teammates was forward Shawn Pauly, who made an impact on Dickson and the Mavericks last season.

“Last year was a learning experience for me, and I am so happy and feel so fortunate to be back with Coach JSD and the Mavs this season,” Pauly said. “The trip to Allen was pretty special, because you’re on a bus, with nothing to do, so you get to know the guys you’re going out on the ice with every night.

“I don’t think any of us minded the bus being broken down because we just talked, played cards, did all the things you do on a long bus trip. I can’t speak for all the guys on the team, but I felt like I knew my teammates much better after that trip.”

The Mavericks roster is set at 21 players, with 13 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders. It must be trimmed to 20 by Nov. 12.

“We want to add a D-man,” Dickson said, “and we’re in talks with some teams, so we’ll see what happens. I like the way the team is made up, we just need to bolster the defensive group a little bit. But I’ll take this team into battle against anyone in the ECHL.”