There’s a reason the CHL’s Franchise of the Year banner is hanging at the Independence Events Center.

There’s a reason the CHL’s Franchise of the Year banner is hanging at the Independence Events Center.

Just ask CHL commissioner Duane Lewis, who paid a visit to the Missouri Mavericks on Feb. 17 and was part of the team’s 11th sell-out as the Mavs fell to Arizona 3-1.

“What the Mavericks are doing is special,” Lewis said as he gazed at the crowd that filled both the arena and lodge of the Events Center. “If you could bottle and sell what they’re doing here, you could get rich.
“This franchise is something special, and everyone in the CHL is aware of it.”

The Mavericks have reached the playoffs in each of their first two seasons and are currently in third place in the Turner Conference. The top four teams advance to postseason play.

The 500,000th fan recently attended a Mavericks game and the team has donated more than $400,000 to local charities.

On the ice this season, forward Brandon Coccimiglio has been named the CHL Player of the Month, goaltender Charlie Effinger has been named the Goaltender of the Week a league-high three times and forward Andrew Courtney represented the Mavericks at the CHL All-Star Game.

Scott Hillman was an all-star coach last year and team president and general manager Brent Thiessen was recently awarded the 2012 Willis of Texas/N. Thomas Berry Commitment Cup.

“You never really know what to expect when a new franchise comes to a community, but from Day 1, there was something special here in Independence,” Lewis said.

Before the Mavericks had a name, a player or a even team colors, Hillman and Thiessen were visiting area businesses and schools, shaking hands and making sure that everyone in Independence knew about their new team.

During one wet afternoon on the Independence Square in 2008, Hillman and Thiessen manned The Examiner’s Santa-Cali-Gon Days booth. Few fans stopped by, but two of them purchased season tickets the next day.

That grassroots effort has made the Mavericks the envy of most franchises in a league that is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“You look at the crowd and you see people of all ages,” Lewis said. “You especially see a lot of families, and that is so important to our league. The Mavericks put out a quality product that appeals to all members of a family.”

As he scanned the crowd, a Green Day song blared over the loud speakers and young and old start dancing in their seats, in the aisles and in the loge area.

“This is great,” Lewis said. “Because of the success of this franchise, other organizations, fans and players across the country know about Independence and they want to know why it’s so special to be a part of this team.”

Effinger and first-year team captain Sebastien Thinel can answer that question.

“You know how they say you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone? Well, that’s how I feel about the Mavericks,” said Effinger, who received his master’s degree while playing in Newcastle, England, last season.

“You don’t know how professional this team is until you are a part of another team. We have the best organization, the best fans, the best coach, the best front office. Across the board, it’s just the best.”
Thinel, who played with Hillman for eight years in Odessa, is enjoying his new surroundings.

“My family and I love it here,” Thinel said. “I would not have come here unless I thought we had a chance of winning a championship, which I think we do, but playing with a first-class organization is wonderful.

“We live across the street, we have a great building, the best fans, this was an easy decision. And now, I know it was the right decision.”

Lewis has been commissioner of the CHL since 2008. He played hockey at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, and while in school worked in the NHL’s officiating, scouting and public relations departments.

There is a good reason he still looks like he could put on some pads and pick up a stick and be comfortable on the ice, as Lewis played for the Western Professional Hockey League’s New Mexico Scorpions and Amarillo Rattlers.

When asked if he had any conversations with Hillman or Thiessen during an early-season slump when the Mavericks were just 2-7-1 at home, he shook his head signifying yes.

“Teams go through those kind of slumps and Brent and Scott know it’s all part of the game, although it’s a part none of us like very much,” Lewis said. “That’s why you need the veteran guys like Carlyle Lewis and Ed McGrane and Sebastien Thinel. They know as much about the game as anyone in the league.

“They can talk to the young guys on the team and let them know it’s part of the game, and that the team is going to come out of it and have a lot of success.”

The Mavericks have been one of the hottest teams in the CHL the past month and are now 28-17-5 overall and 13-10-3 at home.

“You can walk into the Mavericks locker room and tell they have something special,” Lewis said. “You look into the arena and know they are special to this community.

“As commissioner, this is the type of franchise I really enjoy visiting. This one is special, and will be for a long, long time.”