The mood at the Independence Events Center Friday night was as mixed and varied as the Missouri Mavericks fans who waited in line for three-plus hours to say goodbye to members of the Central Hockey League team following its elimination from the Turner Conference semifinals.

The mood at the Independence Events Center Friday night was as mixed and varied as the Missouri Mavericks fans who waited in line for three-plus hours to say goodbye to members of the Central Hockey League team following its elimination from the Turner Conference semifinals.

The fans came in all shapes and sizes. They wore Mavericks gear, playoff-themed T-shirts and face paint.

The second annual Goodbye Party has become quite the affair, as fans were given one last chance to let their favorite players know just how much they meant to them.

“I saw one of my favorite fans crying,” said graphic artist Jeff Barge, whose  artwork hangs in the Top Shelf gift shop at the Events Center. “And I wanted to go hug her and tell her everything was going to be all right. But as I approached her, I felt like I was trying to tell a youngster that his puppy had died and was in doggie heaven. I just couldn’t find the words.”

Former Independence police officer Steve Bell, who now lives in Belton, Mo., experienced much the same feeling.

“I have such mixed emotions right now,” said Bell, one of the first fans in a line that totaled more than 1,000 as it crept out into the east parking lot of the Events Center.

“I felt like I lost a part of my life – a very important part – when we lost that last playoff game to Colorado. Throughout the playoffs, I’d think, ‘Yes we can!’ And we did against Wichita. Then I’d think, ‘I hope we can.’ and we almost did against Colorado.

“When we lost that last game 2-1 at home, all I could think about was the cold, dreary days of winter and how the Mavericks made them bright and sunny.

“They have meant so much to me. And look at how many people came to the Events Center tonight. They mean a lot to everyone.”

One youngster brought a sketch she had done at school so All-CHL goaltender Robby Nolan could sign it.

“She wanted to draw a player, and she found a nice picture of Robby Nolan and we wanted to bring it for him to sign,” said Michelle VunCannon, the mother of 14-year-old Brooke.

“I really like to draw, and I wanted to draw a hockey player,” said Brooke, 14, a student at Pioneer Ridge in Independence. “We found the picture on their website. I hope he likes it.”

The drawing impressed Nolan – so did the turnout.

“We have the greatest fans,” said Nolan, who sat at a table alongside his Mavericks teammates. “I’ve signed everything from these huge posters that hung in the Events Center during the playoffs to Brooke’s drawing of me, which was just incredible.

“You can tell the fans are having a hard time saying goodbye, and we’re having a hard time saying goodbye to them.”

When the season came to an end, so did a ritual at the Spevak household in Independence.

“Every morning, my husband Frank would bring me The Examiner sports page and a cup of coffee, and I would read (the) article about the Mavericks,” Stephanie Spevak said.

“The Mavericks and the Events Center are the best things that ever happened to Independence – along with the coverage in The Examiner. Thank goodness our local newspaper realizes what this team and these players mean to the fans and this community.”

Becky Heermann, who brought a labor of love to the goodbye party, agrees.

“I can’t even imagine what life would be like now without the Mavericks,” said Heermann, who brought a detailed Mavericks quilt that she made.

“I bring it to every game. First, it’s warm. And second, it has all the Mavericks colors and logos.”

She took it to each table and had all the players sign it.

“Just look what Mike Berry wrote,” she said with pride.

“To Becky: With Love, Mike Berry.”

“All the boys loved looking at it,” she said. “I just wish I had time to make one for every one of them.”

As wave after wave of fans entered the Events Center, team president and general manager Brent Thiessen took a moment from his signing duties to address the overwhelming turnout.

“This is home,” Thiessen said. “This is where we’re going to be for a long, long time. We are so disappointed our playoff run came to an end against Colorado, but I promise you and all our fans this – next year is going to be bigger and better than ever.

“We said that last year, and I think we delivered. And we have a few tricks up our sleeves. Just like our fans, we can’t wait for next year.”