• Mavericks get two-for-one deal

  • Mavericks officials said they exceeded even their own expectations as they announced three-time CHL all-star and 2007 league MVP Jeff Christian as the first player to sign a Maverick contract.

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  • Scott Hillman, the head coach of the Central Hockey League’s Missouri Mavericks, jokingly said he had participated in the “two most exciting days” in franchise history.
    He was talking about the announcement of himself as head coach and the naming of the Independence-based team.
    “I love our logo and our team name,” Hillman said, “and I am thrilled to be the head coach – but no one is going to go see the team because of the head coach or the mascot, they want to see the players.
    “So, in my opinion, this is the most exciting day in team history because we are announcing our first player.”
    Mavericks officials said they exceeded even their own expectations as they announced three-time CHL all-star and 2007 league MVP Jeff Christian as the first player to sign a Maverick contract.
    He penned the contract in a meeting room at the Sheraton Hotel, which will be the team headquarters this season for all Maverick opponents.
    Christian, 39, will be a player-assistant coach for the Mavericks and Hillman said he brings instant credibility to the first-year team.
    “He is a big presence with NHL experience,” Hillman said. “He is a former MVP in our league and he will have a tremendous influence on the younger guys on the team.
    “I played against him, and I know what a great competitor he is. We are very, very fortunate to have a great individual like Jeff become the first player in team history.”
    Christian, who was joined by his wife, Dorie, and 7-year-old daughter Ryan, said he can’t wait to get to work – both on and off the ice.
    “When you look at this team’s front office, you see nothing but all-stars and award winners,” said Christian, who played one year for the Rockford Ice Hogs before becoming a free agent.
    “Who wouldn’t want to play here? The coach is a proven winner and the individuals who are putting this team together are the best in the CHL. I may be biased, but I think this front office is as good as any front office in any league.”
    Christian, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right winger who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the 1988 entry draft, has played the last four seasons in the CHL and has more points (382) over that span than any player in the league.
    He was the league MVP while playing with the Youngstown SteelHounds, where he scored a league- and career-high 116 points.
    “I’m 39 and people ask me why I keep playing,” said Christian, who played 18 games in the NHL. “The answer is simple: I still have a passion for the game. I am very excited about being an assistant to Scott.
    Page 2 of 3 - “I think I can help this organization as a coach and also as a player. I feel like it will be my job to drive the offense, and I’m looking forward to working with the young guys we’re going to have on the team.
    “Since word got out that I was signing with the Mavericks, I’ve had a couple of guys call me personally to say they are interested in a tryout.”
    After an afternoon news conference, the Mavericks front office staff and Christian joined some fans at the Fox and Hound Restaurant in Independence.
    Long before the scheduled 6 p.m. start, rabid hockey fans were lined out the door for the chance to meet Christian and the front office crew and talk hockey.
    “I got to the team’s office at 4 a.m. the first day tickets went on sale,” said Independence resident Kevin Gabert, “so I could be the first one to buy seats. I’m just a hockey nut.
    “I love the action and the skills those guys have. In this economic crunch, season tickets are a great bargain and you can just tell this team is doing everything right – like having this get-together tonight to let the fans meet our first player. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”
    Sporting a Kansas City Blades jersey, longtime Independence hockey fan Bob Johnson was eager to see what the Wednesday night event would be like.
    “When the Blades played down at Kemper Arena, I went to 30 or 40 games a year with my son,” Johnson said. “I haven’t bought my season tickets yet – but I’m sure thinking about it.
    “You can tell this is a first-class organization from the way they treat the fans. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen tonight.”
    So was his son, Derek, a 1993 graduate of Truman High School.
    “I started going to hockey games with my dad when I was 16,” Derek said. “We’ve both been fans all our lives. I just love the action of the game.”
    Derek also hopes to work for the team as its photographer.
    “That would be a dream job,” Derek said. “I’m going to talk to some people tonight.”
    Stephanie Goldberg, a hockey fan who has dog named Zamboni, is going to be the team’s official Booster Club president.
    “I volunteered, and they said yes,” said Goldberg, a season ticket holder who lives in Overland Park, Kan. “I love hockey. I go to all the news conferences that I can and was the fourth person to buy season tickets. My friends tell me that it’s not a hockey event if I’m not there.
    “I think that Independence is going to just fall in love with this team because the sport is so special and the Mavericks are going to get the players out in the community so we’ll get to meet them and get to know all the players.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Assistant general manager Joe Greene said tickets are selling at a brisk rate.
    “We sold 18 season tickets on Tuesday – and that was before we announced our first player,” Greene said. “The fans are just blowing us away. They’re the best – the very best.”

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