The Kansas City Mavericks had just edged longtime rival Wichita 3-2 at Silverstein Events Center when the doors to the locker room burst open and associate captain Rocco Carzo, who sat on the bench in a suit and tie, joined the media members standing in the hallway.
“I’m 1-0 as a coach baby!” joked “Coach” Carzo, who will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL on Nov. 15 in a 2-1 win at Wichita. “John-Scott (Dickson, the head coach who was standing directly behind Carzo) had nothing to do with this win.
“It was me, all me!”
By this time, everyone – players, coaches, members of the media and Mavericks front office – were in near tears as Carzo was putting on the best comic routine since Seinfeld played in Kansas City.
“I’m going to spend more time in a pool than (Olympic champion) Michael Phelps. I’m going to get so jacked with my upper body that when Phelps sees me he’s going to get out of the pool and run. Upper body (flexing his muscles), man, I can’t wait.
“But hey,” Carzo added, breaking into a more serious tone, “if you can’t laugh, all you’re going to do is cry and I’m not going to cry about this injury. I’m going to have surgery and come back bigger and stronger and better than ever. Right Nick?”
He was looking at Mavericks trainer Nick Potter, who has nursed many Mavericks players back from serious injuries.
“I know how hard Rocco is going to work to come back from this injury,” said Potter, who said Carzo will undergo surgery sometime this week. “It’s going to be tough, because I know Rocco and know how much he wants to come back and play.
“He’s going to attack the rehab process like he does playing hockey – he’s going to give it everything he has and then some.”
Carzo was injured by a check during the second period in Wichita as he cleared the puck out of the Mavericks’ defensive zone. He immediately headed to the locker room and did not return to the ice.
While rehabbing, Carzo wants to be alongside Dickson and assistant coach Kyle Hood on the bench, including today’s 7:05 p.m. home game against the Kalamazoo Wings at SEC Arena.
“It was my idea, I want to contribute, I want to help this team even if I can’t be on the ice,” Carzo said. “I hate that this happened, but I’m going to do everything I can to turn it into a positive situation.”
His loss leaves a big hole for Dickson to fill, but the third-year coach believes his team will rally around its associate captain.
“In losing Rocco, we’re losing a 40-goal guy – because he scores 20 goals a year and keeps teams from scoring another 20 goals,” Dickson said. “He was an associate captain, a heart-and-soul guy everyone looked up to. It’s going to be tough without him, but so far the guys have responded to the challenge.
“And I like the idea of ‘Coach’ Carzo joining us on the bench. He’s another set of eyes who can see some things Hoodie and I might miss and he has the ultimate respect of every guy on the team.”
Team president and general manager Brent Thiessen said in a statement, “I’m absolutely crushed for Rocco to have his season cut short. He is a huge part of our team, a tremendous leader in our locker room and we will miss having him on the ice this season. I’m confident that he will bring a positive approach to rehab day in and day out and will be back on the ice as soon as possible.”
Carzo, 27, had recorded two goals, three assists, a minus-5 rating and four penalty minutes in 12 games with the Mavericks this season.
The Media, Pa., native played two full seasons with the Mavericks, and played a big role in leading the team to the Brabham Cup for the ECHL’s best regular season record in 2015-16. He entered this year with 39 goals and 72 assists for 111 points in 147 games.
Potter said it will be four to four and a half months before Carzo can return to the ice following surgery. All the rehab process will take place in Independence.