You can’t make this stuff up.
It would almost be comical if it didn’t have such a devastating effect on the Kansas City Mavericks, the ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames.
I visited earlier this week with winger Mitch Hults, who is among the top two or three players to ever don a Mavericks sweater.
Today, he is gone as he was recalled to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
I’ll excuse all members of the Orange Army if they want to stop and get a tissue. Heck, I’m almost teary eyed as I write this column.
He is lightning fast, tough as nails and his shot recalls the good ol’ days of Mavericks Hall of Famer Sebastian Thinel.
We were visiting last weekend after Hults assisted on the first goal and scored the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime victory over longtime rival Wichita.
In the new 3-on-3, seven-minute overtime format, Hults was a man among the boys. He collected the puck near the blue line and slipped it past Thunder goalie Mitch Gillam with a slick, backhanded shot that no goalkeeper on the planet would have had a chance against.
“I like the backhander,” Hults said with a sly grin. “I especially liked it tonight.”
So did coach John-Scott Dickson, who almost foreshadowed Hults’ return to Stockton when he said, “Anyone who has watched Hults play knows he is an AHL player, so we’re just going to enjoy him while he is here. He is a special talent and a game-changer. We saw that tonight in regulation and the overtime period.”
With the Mavericks trailing 1-0 Saturday night in front of a record crowd of 5,858, Hults assisted Darian Dziurzynski on his game-tying goal with 1:08 left in the second period.
Hults, who has four goals and four assists in his last five games since being assigned to the Mavericks from Stockton just over a week ago, said he is just doing his job.
“It’s funny, because everyone wants to go up to the AHL and then to the NHL – that’s our dream,” Hults said. “But guys handle it differently. There are guys who might be playing ECHL hockey, and they’re PO’d because they don’t want to down at this level and all that does is hurt them.
“Me, I’m going to give it my all no matter where I am playing. I really like this organization, JSD is a great coach and the guys in the locker room are great. I would love to help them win a championship, but I am not going to complain if I get called up.”
With his ability on a pair of skates, he could have easily said “when I get called up,” but he’s too classy to make that statement.
“Hults is special, a really talented guy and a great guy in the locker room,” Mavericks captain Rocco Carzo said. “You saw what he did tonight in the last four or five games – he’s a game-changer.”
And now, he’s gone.
Welcome to the world of minor league hockey.
Now, will you please excuse me while I go grab another tissue?
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC