• Bill Althaus: Equipment manager keeps Mavs humming

  • Andrew Dvorak has never scored a game-winning goal, made a heart-stopping defensive play or written up a game plan that led to a playoff victory.

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  • Andrew Dvorak has never scored a game-winning goal, made a heart-stopping defensive play or written up a game plan that led to a playoff victory.
    Yet this behind-the-scenes Missouri Mavericks guru is as important as any member of the four-year-old Central Hockey League team.
    “When I found out I got the Mavericks job, Andrew was one of the first people I contacted,” Mavericks coach Scott Hillman said of his equipment manager.
    “I was in the SPHL (Southern Professional Hockey League) at Knoxville (where Hillman won back-to-back championships) and he was at Richmond.
    “They were our big rivals and all we heard about was what a great job he did for that team. Well, I wanted him for my new team and we were lucky enough to convince him to come to Missouri with us.”
    It didn't take the players long before they found out Dvorak's importance off the ice. He quickly earned the nickname “MacGyver,” after the television hero who could turn a spool of thread, some gum and a paper clip into a device that could stop a nuclear bomb.
    As Dvorak was working on a broken stick outside of the team's locker room at the Independence Events Center, assistant director of hockey operations and former Mavericks CHL Man of the Year Simon Watson comes in off the ice following practice.
    Without breaking stride he glances over at Dvorak and simply says, “MacGyver.”
    Both men grin. There isn't a member of any CHL staff who enjoys his job more than Dvorak. If he's not busting a rookie's chops, he's finding a way to connect a clip onto Mike Clemente's goalie pads so the winningest goaltender in the league can keep his favorite gear.
    “Drew's the best,” Clemente said. “He's just one of the guys, part of the team. And he can do anything. You tell him what you need done, and it's done. You don't even think about it.”
    Hillman backs that comment.
    “Drew is amazing,” the coach said, sporting a sly grin. “But do you have to put that in the paper? We don't want him getting a big head.”
    There is no such thing as a normal day for MacGyver – err, Dvorak.
    “I'm usually in about 6:30 or 7 a.m., just to get a head start on everything,” said Dvorak, the only guy in the clubhouse who can make sewing look manly. “I get things rolling. That way, when the guys come in, they can get their gear, get out on the ice and get rolling. It makes for a long day, but in the long run, it makes my job a lot smoother.”
    He washes the team gear in a massive machine that is located in a room just off the community ice at the IEC.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Then I take care of the stuff that needs fixing,” he said. “Sharpen skates, things like that.”
    He has his job down to a science. He's been doing it more than 10 years, so it's nothing to pack up a 100-pound stick bag, 20-plus 40-pound player equipment bags, a 56-pound glove dryer, 65-pound blade sharpener and assorted other odds and ends into the belly of a bus at least 33 times a year during the regular season.
    “I can load the bus in my sleep,” Dvorak said, “but my wife Shannon has told me that I order gear in my sleep at night. I guess it never ends.”
    In an emergency, he will sew a new player’s name on a jersey following a trade – so he's hoping for a player with a name like “KELL” rather than a “PSZENYCZNY.”
    But whatever the Mavericks need, they know they can depend on the veteran equipment manager to pull it off without a hitch.
    “I love what I do,” Dvorak said. “People ask me if it's a thankless job, and I can see why they feel that way. But to me, when I get a guy's skates sharpened or put a blade on a new stick, the guys appreciate it and that's all that matters.
    “But I will admit that after the season ends, I collapse. I don't do anything for two weeks. Then, camps get going and I get back to work – and it always feels good to get back to work, helping people out.
    “I think that's what I like most about my job. I want everyone from Scott and the players to know that I am always there for them.”
    Bill Althaus is a sports writer for The Examiner. Reach him at bill.althaus@examiner.net or 816-350-6333.

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