If Missouri Mavericks president and general manager Brent Thiessen ever feels the need to get out of a suit and tie and the high-pressure field of running a professional sports team, he would be a smash hit on the comedy circuit.

If Missouri Mavericks president and general manager Brent Thiessen ever feels the need to get out of a suit and tie and the high-pressure field of running a professional sports team, he would be a smash hit on the comedy circuit.

The personable Thiessen opened Thursday’s news conference at the Independence Events Center with a joke that showed impeccable timing and a great stage presence.

Before an overflow crowd at The President’s Club, Thiessen said he wanted to dispel a “nasty rumor.”

“As you know, we just signed Toby Lafrance for next season,” Thiessen said as whispers about the popular forward began to spread from fan to fan. “We’ll, Toby went out and bought a case of beer to celebrate. As he was returning to his home, he was recognized by a fan who asked, ‘Where’d you get the case of beer?’

“Now, Toby didn’t want to ruin his reputation, so he told the fan, ‘I got it for my wife.’ The fan then replied, ‘That’s a good trade.’ ”

Fans let out a sigh of relief, laughed and applauded.

Thiessen savored the moment, and added as an aside, “If we have this many people at a news conference in June, can you imagine how many are going to be here when the season starts?”

The Mavericks are enjoying a love affair with a city that is hungry for a winner.

It’s also hungry for a team that appreciates its fans.

The Mavericks provided fans with commemorative T-shirts, that were draped across the folding chairs in The President’s Club. They spelled out the team’s new slogan: “Whatever It Takes!”

There were complimentary cookies, iced tea and water.

The event was more like a party than a news conference, with the highlight the signing of returnees Simon Watson, Brett Hammond, Derek Pallardy and Gerry Festa and newcomer Derek Knowles.

 “The support here in Independence, Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit, Grain Valley and the surrounding area has been overwhelming and every time somebody asks me about the Missouri Mavericks, the first thing I say is, ‘We’ve got the best fans I’ve ever come across,’ ” coach Scott Hillman said.

“I’ve been associated with this Central Hockey League in one way or another for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this – NEVER!”

Neither has original Maverick Watson, who marveled at the crowd at the news conference.

“You would think a team would be in a city for 10 years and would have won several championships to get this type of support,” said Watson, who is living in Independence this offseason. “I love meeting the fans at a restaurant or when I’m at the mall or somewhere in Independence. It’s great to talk hockey, no matter what time of year it is.”

Brett Hammond, who is working with a dog obedience group and a window/carpet cleaning business in Independence, agreed.

“It kind of makes my day when someone wants to talk about the Mavericks,” said Hammond, who led the team with five goals in postseason play. “I would have done anything to come back here. I’d have probably paid them to come back – but don’t let Brent know that.”

 When the news conference wrapped up, Thiessen and Hillman took questions from the crowd and everyone wanted to know about goaltender Charlie Effinger and team captain Jeff Christian.

Effinger, who became an instant fan favorite when he arrived from the Allen Americans, and the Mavericks are in the process of talking about a contract for next season.

“Charlie is a very special player and we want him to be a part of our team next season,” Hillman said, “and we’re doing everything possible to make that happen.”

Christian, who led the team is scoring last season, is in Memphis, Tenn., with his 8-year-old daughter, Ryan, and his wife, Dorie. Ryan is undergoing her fifth round of chemotherapy and Christian’s status with the team is not known at this time.

“One way or another, we want Jeff Christian to be a part of this team in 2010,” Thiessen said. “If that’s as an assistant coach, or possibly a player, we just have to wait and see. Right now, his No. 1 priority is getting Ryan healthy. We’re all praying for Jeff and his family every day.”

Thiessen addressed the upcoming 32-game home schedule and said that “fans are going to be thrilled with the number of Friday and Saturday night games,” which basically guarantee a sellout.

“We’re working on the schedule as we speak,” Thiessen said. “With the addition of the five International Hockey League teams, we are having to take a wait-and-see approach as to how that will impact the CHL schedule.

“I’d say the schedule will be complete in mid-July.”

Thiessen opened the news conference by presenting a Mavericks jersey to 4-year-old Independence resident Jackson Bateman.

“We got an e-mail from Jackson’s father during the season, saying how his son had become a Mavericks fan after attending several games,” Thiessen said. “We just wanted to thank Jackson, and we thought that would be a great way to do it.”

Thiessen also addressed the injury suffered by forward Bill Vandermeer, who fell 20 feet while pruning a tree and broke the heels in both his feet. He is going to be in a wheelchair 8 to 12 weeks.

“The prognosis from the doctors and the great staff at Centerpoint (Medical Center) has been very positive,” Thiessen said, “and Bill has a great outlook and is a hard worker. He’s promising all of us that he’s going to be ready to play this season.

“We’re looking forward to that, and hope to see him back on the ice in mid-November.”

Speaking of the new slogan, Thiessen chuckled when asked if “Whatever It Takes” was going to replace the first-year slogan, “Give ‘em Hell!”

“No, oh no,” Thiessen said. “We want every team in the CHL to know that every time they come to our home here in the Events Center, we’re going to ‘Give ’em Hell.’ ”