The line began to form well before Missouri Mavericks favorites Jeff Christian and Carlyle Lewis arrived at the Shocking Prices store located at 23rd Street and Missouri 291.

The line began to form well before Missouri Mavericks favorites Jeff Christian and Carlyle Lewis arrived at the Shocking Prices store located at 23rd Street and Missouri 291.

It was easy to spot the Central Hockey League team’s fans because they came wearing team gear, T-shirts, hoodies or caps. They carried banners and programs and yearbooks and could hardly wait to get their photo taken with the Mavs’ first all-star selection and the team enforcer.

While watching the autograph session, it was hard to determine who was having the better time – Christian, the legendary CHL scoring machine who represented the Mavs in the All-Star Game in Laredo, Texas, or Carlye, whose YouTube video of his knockout punch against an Arizona Sundog is an Internet sensation.

“We like to call Carlyle the ‘Grim Sleeper,’ ” Christian said as he posed for photos and made each fan feel like they were visiting with their next door neighbor. “We have the greatest fans in the world. And I mean that. I love coming out to appearances like this. And, yes, I do have as much fan as the fans.”

Ditto for Lewis, who struck a mock boxing pose in every photo – including the ones with the young ladies in attendance.

“I hope I’m part of something special in Independence,” Lewis said. “We want to build a foundation that lasts a long, long time. I want to be a part of this team, and meet with our fans for years to come.

“When I came to the Mavericks I was hoping it would be like this, and because of our fans, it’s exceeded my expectations. Our fans are just amazing. We’d do anything for them, because they’d do anything for us.”

One of the first fans in line was season-ticket holder Melody Titus, who was carrying two authentic Mavs jerseys to get signed.

“After Jeff was at the All-Star Game in Laredo, they auctioned off the players’ jerseys and I won his on the Laredo Web site,” Titus said, proudly. “I wish I would have had it tonight to get it signed.

“I have to be honest with you. I am shocked that I am such a big fan. My husband Russel is down in the back, and I’ve been going to the games by myself. I cry at the thought of missing one.”

After Christian and Lewis greeted Titus like a long-lost relative, the Independence resident beamed from ear to ear.

“I am so proud to have the Mavericks as my hometown team. I’m proud to be a fan and proud of all the coverage we get in The Examiner.”

Melissa Reynolds, another Independence resident, bought season tickets after attending the home opener.

“My husband Brian and I have season tickets right behind the opposing penalty box,” she said, grinning. “We give the guys a hard time when they get in box.”

Lewis overheard the comment and added, “Buy ’em a beer or two – that makes our job easier.”

Reynolds posed for a photo, got a signature and said, “These guys are amazing. They are so friendly and so approachable. We love them.”

Former Independence police officer Steve Bell now lives in Belton, Mo., but he’s a season ticket holder.

He brought Blue Springs resident Josh Enke to his first Mavs game and now, Enke is bringing a group of 40 fans to an upcoming game.

“I brought my 13-year-old son, Jason, to a game and he told me, ‘Dad, the Mavericks are my new thing,’ ” Bell said. “We love to go to games together.”

Enke said he attended his first pro hockey game in 1991 when he went to see the Kansas City Blades at Kemper Arena.

“This is so much better,” Enke said, “because the Events Center is the best place to watch a game and the parking is free and the players are so nice. I’m really happy I came into Independence tonight to meet Jeff and Carlyle. They couldn’t be any nicer.

Shocking Prices owner John Olivarez’s grandkids – Jared, 9, Savannah, 12, and Ethan Macoubrie, 10 – all live in Grain Valley and they attend as many games as possible.

“What a great team to work with,” said Olivarez, whose Shocking Prices store is giving away a big-screen television at Friday’s sold-out game. “I went to a game and got hooked – now, we’re having the guys at our store and they are just amazing. What a great night.”

John Hill now lives in Blue Springs, but he grew up in Independence and had a makeshift rink in his driveway as a kid.

“We had a cutout of (Hall of Fame goaltender) Ken Dryden and my dad made hockey sticks out of plywood. He got a bunch of 1-by-1’s and some netting and made a net and we had a blast,” Hill said. “I can’t believe we have a team in our own backyard. My dad also played semi-pro hockey and was paid $20 bucks a game and all the beer he could drink.”

Again, Lewis overheard the comment and said, “Sounds like a good deal to me.”

Everyone laughed.

It was more like a backyard barbecue than an autograph session.

“The fans made us feel like members of their family,” Christian said, “and we want them to know they are members of our family, too.”