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Examiner
  • Bill Althaus: Road trip gives glimpse of CHL life

  • Have you ever wondered what life on the road might be like for a Central Hockey League player?

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  • Have you ever wondered what life on the road might be like for a Central Hockey League player?
    It's quick-paced, matter of fact and not very glamorous.
    Three years ago, I made a trip to Mississippi with the team, and it was long and grueling and not much fun. But it was an eye-opening experience. The bus left around midnight, so the players could spend much of the trip sleeping, and arrived at around 8 a.m.
    Announcer and all-around-good-guy Bob Rennison, trainer Wes Fillingame and I then helped Drew “McGyver” Dvorak unload the equipment at the arena.
    When I opened an equipment bag, the smell almost knocked me over. It was a pungent combination of sweat, blood and competitive spirit. I've not smelled anything like that aroma since that morning and hope to never bombard my senses with that smell again.
    This past Sunday, I made a much shorter trip to Wichita, Kan., with the team and it was a pleasant and quick trip. I was surprised at the number of fans who were on hand at the Events Center to tell their boys goodbye.
    Leading the charge was No. 1 Mavericks fan Frank Spevak, who blows an air horn when the bus leaves, and blows it again on the team's arrival back in Independence.
    Because the Mavericks had lost their last two games to the Thunder, the bus ride was rather subdued. Thanks to the Mavericks Fan Club, there was an abundance of treats on board and the team stopped at a Wichita Subway so the players could grab a quick sandwich before the game.
    Dvorak had the locker room set up in a flash and even had time to sharpen some of the guys’ skates. A group of Mavericks were taking part in their pregame soccer session when a member of the Air Force color guard asked if they were soccer players.
    When David Simoes assured them that they were hockey players, one of the relieved guard members said, “That's good news. We thought we were at the wrong place.”
    Rookie Austin Lee, who is no longer with the club, started in goal that night. He spent much of his pregame time alone on the bench, no doubt pondering the importance of this start.
    Although the Mavericks took their first lead of the season following two quick first-period goals, they wound up losing the game 4-3 in overtime, which set the tone for a quiet trip back to Missouri.
    However, I got a special glimpse into the world of coach Scott Hillman, who calls me after each road game – win or lose – so I can write a story for the next edition of The Examiner.
    “It's great to have you on the road,” Hillman said, “because we'll have a much better connection.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Many times the cell phones just don't get it done in the locker rooms and corridors of arenas across the country.
    A few minutes into the trip, “Dad” Hillman called his sons, Corbin and Gunhar, to see how they did in their respective games that he missed.
    The conversation was hushed, and filled with love.
    He never asked for scores, he only wanted to know if they had had fun. Hillman then promised them that he would give them a hug and a kiss when he got home and would join them in the morning for breakfast.
    That touching moment made the entire trip worthwhile. After all, in a few days you forget the score of a hockey game, but my family is the most important thing in my life.
    I'm pleased to see that Scott Hillman feels the same way.
    A little before midnight, the bus rolled into the Events Center as Spevak blew his air horn, and another day in the life of a CHL player had concluded.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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