During last month’s FanFest at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Kansas City Mavericks fans were asked about the upcoming season and what they were most eager to see.
“I just want the season to start,” longtime season ticket holder Ron Clemons said, grinning, “I can’t wait. And I am so happy we get to watch C.J. Eick play again this season.”
When that comment was relayed to Eick following Tuesday morning’s practice session on the community ice at SEC Arena, the popular forward broke into a big grin himself.
“The fans here are the best,” said Eick, who played in 70 games last season with the Mavericks, finishing with 12 goals, 15 assists and a plus-12 rating. “I can’t wait for the season to start.
“Part of me wishes the season started today, but I know we have a lot to work on before we get started next week (Oct. 11 in Tulsa, followed by the home opener Oct. 12 against the Indy Fuel).
“We have our scrimmage Wednesday, then we play Allen (7 p.m. Friday at SEC Arena) in an exhibition game, and it all starts the following week so we have a lot to accomplish before the season opener.”
He paused, grinned, and added, “But I can’t wait! I think I’m as excited as our fans.”
Eick, who stands just 5-foot-7, became an immediate fan favorite last year.
“You’ve gotta love a player like C.J.,” Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson said following the second practice of the season Tuesday. “He brings speed to the ice, and a great work ethic – no one is going to outwork C.J.
“And this year, we look to him to be a leader. He knows what it means to be a Maverick, and he’s going to make an impact on the ice and in the locker room.”
When asked about being a leader, Eick said he learned from the best.
“You can look around our locker room and see a lot of leaders, but Rocco (Carzo, the team captain) is the leader of this team. He’s a veteran who has one goal – to win. He doesn’t have an ego, he’s the first guy to welcome new players and he’s a guy who makes an impact on the ice.
“When you can model yourself after a real leader like Rocco, it makes a difference. And all I care about is winning.”
The Mavericks lost a seven-game series to the Tulsa Oilers in the first round of the playoffs last year, and that Game 7 loss still haunts Eick.
“We want to have a great season and make a long run in the playoffs,” Eick said. “And when you look around the locker room and see all the talent we have, you know that it can happen.
“But we have to work hard, pay attention to our coaches and get it done on the ice. And we have had two very good practices, and we have the scrimmage tomorrow, so we’re getting to where we want to be.”
SCRIMMAGE OPEN TO PUBLIC: Wednesday’s scrimmage begins at 11 a.m. and is free and open to the public.
“We’re going to have two, 25-minute periods with a running clock,” Dickson said. “And it’s an important scrimmage. We can keep 21 active players and two reserves during the season, and we have 24 skaters and two goalies.
“We’re going to see who’s out there working hard and paying attention to detail. I don’t know if a player can win a job by what he does tomorrow, but he can lose a job, so I’d say it’s pretty important for the guys to show us all they’ve got.”