• Althaus: Tough to see Festa leave

  • I know that professional sports teams have to make some tough decisions.

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  • I know that professional sports teams have to make some tough decisions.
    I’ve been covering the metro sports scene for nearly 30 years. If the Kansas City Royals can say goodbye to Frank White and the Kansas City Chiefs can give Christian Okoye his walking papers, nothing will ever surprise me.
    When the Missouri Mavericks traded longtime goaltender Gerry Festa to first-place Fort Wayne this week, they did it because president and general manager Brent Thiessen and coach Scott Hillman believe newcomer Levente Szuper will make the Mavericks a stronger team.
    I can live with that.
    I don’t know enough about the inner workings of hockey to challenge a decision the Mavs’ braintrust makes. Hillman has led the team to back-to-back playoff appearances and a squad that was struggling at home has won two in a row at the Independence Events Center and is eagerly anticipating two games this weekend against Tulsa on Friday night and Quad City on Saturday.
    Still, it’s going to be strange looking down at the ice and not seeing Festa’s familiar No. 34.
    “Gerry has been like a son to me,” Hillman said Tuesday when the trade was announced. “My son Corbin (who has taken goaltending lessons from Festa the past two years) doesn’t even know about this. When he finds out, I might need to find a new place to live.”
    Hillman went into great detail about the trade and what type of impact it will have on the team and the loyal Mavericks fan base.
    “Minor league hockey is like a double-edged sword,” Hillman said.
    “A team becomes successful in the community because we work so hard to develop a relationship between our players and our fans. But then, you make a trade – that we believe will improve our club – and you say goodbye to a quality young man like Gerry and the fans get upset.
    “And I don’t blame them. This is a hard decision to make for the coach. It’s tough. But we found a team that needs a goaltender and we know that Gerry will have a lot of success in Fort Wayne.”
    Festa has battled his emotions this week. He simply couldn’t deal with an interview, but sent me this message via Facebook:
    “I am happy that I got to spend a few years in such a great area with unbelievable fans and had the chance to make such great friends, many for life I think. Especially with the nature of minor hockey, I am excited for the new opportunity with another one of the top notch organizations in this league and although sometimes trades are difficult to understand, it usually works out for the better in some way. … I will look forward to seeing everyone at the rink (Jan. 15) when Fort Wayne comes to town.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The trade broke his heart in some ways, but it could also open some doors and provide him with an opportunity to make a name for himself with one of the top teams in the CHL.
    Festa is a young man with a quick smile and a personality that lights up a room. Mavericks fans are going to miss him, but we should all be thankful for the short period of time he was a part of our lives.
    n I’m ringing in the new year with a new radio show on KCWJ. I’m teaming up with Tim Crone, the former activities director and coach at Blue Springs High School, on “Off the Wall With Tim Crone.” We taped our first show last week during the Christmas break, and it should be a lot of fun. Crone always speaks his mind, and our first two guests – Farmers Insurance agents and big-time sports enthusiasts, Kevin Hornick and Jay Greco – jump in head first on an array of topics that made the hour fly by at supersonic speed.
    The show will air from 5 to 6 p.m. Fridays on KCWJ 1030 AM, the same station that broadcasts my “Sonic Locker Room” programs and Blue Springs and Blue Springs South football.
    Crone is a one-of-a-kind personality who will make you think, make you smile and get under your skin a little bit. Check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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