In my last blog I spoke of games one through five in the Missouri Mavericks 2013 opening round playoff series against the Rapid City Rush.
Sometimes journeys can be more adventurous than the destination.
In this case the trip to Rapid City was not difficult. The Mavericks departed the Independence Events late in evening of Sunday, April 7, said goodbye to bus driver Norm and hello to driver Matt in Sioux Falls and continued to Rapid City.
Upon arrival in Rapid the Mavericks held an uneventful practice followed by an uneventful dinner.
Memorable events started early the next day when CHL officials determined the game would take place despite heavy snow in the forecast.
I left the Rushmore Plaza Civic Arena for lunch in the afternoon expecting to broadcast a hockey game that evening.
When I returned I found an arena inhabited by one person….a maintenance worker who informed me CHL officials had a change of heart and game six of the series had been postponed to the following evening.
The players and staff awoke the next day eager to play hockey. How would the delay affect both teams?
My lunch run proved to be difficult. With snow drifts covering the sidewalks I was forced to walk to town on streets which had mini rivers rolling through them. My feet were soaked when I finally arrived at my destination…..a restaurant, which was closed. I tried another restaurant, closed, another, closed and another, also closed. Finally, an open grocery store with a deli. Lunch would be a reality.
When I returned to the arena for the game I was told by an off ice official “If the Mavericks win you will not be able to return to Independence tonight.”
That evening Mavericks forward Kellan Tochkin had the brightest night of his professional career scoring two goals and assisting on three others leading the Mavericks to a 5-1 win over the Rush and a trip to the CHL semifinals with a four-games-to-two series victory over Rapid City.
The team would go from snowy, cold, Rapid City to sunny, warm, Allen, Texas…..but how long would it take?
Rather than traveling home that evening, players, coaches and others making the trip would reconvene at 6:00 AM and attempt to head back to Independence.
Traveling east on I-90 the Mavericks bus reached Murdo, South Dakota where the highway was closed. From there it was south on icy roads through hills in the Badlands. Bus driver Matt Lewellen did a masterful job keeping his motor coach on the road. We were surprised at some semi drivers doing their best Jeff Gordon imitations as they roared past the Mavericks bus.
Norman Rockwell would have found numerous opportunities for paintings of rural America in winter as we entered and traveled through Nebraska.
For lunch we stopped at what may be the only chain restaurant in Atkinson, Nebraska, population 1,076. Less than a week before Atkinson was put on the map, when seven-year-old cancer patient, Jack Hoffman, an Atkinson resident, scored on a 69-yard touchdown run in the Nebraska Cornhuskers spring game.
From Atkinson it was on to Council Bluffs, Iowa where we reclaimed driver Norman and headed home.
It was a long journey but worth the effort as the Mavericks 5-1 win over the Rush propelled Missouri into the second round of the CHL playoffs for the fourth time in the four-year history of the franchise and provided the opportunity for more memories to be made in the 2012-2013 season.