The Missouri Mavericks announced the second coach in team history on Thursday, and that was the most anti-climactic portion of the day. Stay with me here. That last line will make sense.
After weeks of speculation, rumors, whispers, funny guesses, and friendly banter, one name emerged from the pack, and that name was Richard Matvichuk. That's definitely a familiar name in any hockey circle, but we'll get to his credentials in a little bit.
The first press conference of the off-season is always exciting. Even though the 2013-14 CHL season just finished, we are all already clamoring for October to get here. The first presser always makes it feel like hockey season is right around the corner. This one was different. For the first time in team history, the first press conference wasn't about player signings, slogans for the upcoming season, season ticket holder perks, or anything else that we'd normally here. No, this time, it was all about a new voice. Today was about taking what Scott Hillman had built in his five seasons in Independence and pushing this team to the next level, whether the rest of the CHL likes it or not. Today was about change.
Throughout this entire process, Team President and General Manager Brent Thiessen continued to say that they were not rebuilding. They were looking for someone to take what they had accomplished, build on it, and bring a championship home to the Orange Army. While that looks good on paper, it would have been tough to do for a new coach. There are typically some growing pains involved with changing a regime, but with Matvichuk at the helm, that won't necessarily be the case. He knows this team, having coached against them for the past two seasons. He knows this fan base, having coached many games in The IEC. Most importantly, he knows this league, all of the other players, and all of the styles and tendencies of the coaches that he'll face in the 2014-15 season. Matvichuk is primed to hit the ground running.
This was about as impressive of a hire that Thiessen could have made. On paper, Matvichuk has definitely walked the walk. He spent 14+ seasons playing at the highest level in the NHL, capped by raising Lord Stanley's Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars, playing alongside the likes of Mike Modano, Craig Ludwig, Brett Hull, and Ed Belfour. As a coach, he won two President's Cups with the Allen Americans as an assistant coach to Steve Martinson, leading one of the league's best defensive units. On paper, Thiessen nailed it.
Today's press conference proved that Matvichuk can also talk the talk. Typically when a new coach is introduced, a steady line of clichés is dished out, and while that happened a little today, anyone in attendance can attest to the fact that this was different. With every word that Matvichuk spoke, the buzz in the arena grew more and more. He was saying things that we all wanted to hear, but more importantly, he meant them, and he made damn sure that we knew that he meant it. I sat in the front row, gobbling up every word that he spoke. It was truly impressive. So when I say that the announcement was the least exciting portion of the day, it's only because everything that happened after that was even better.
Now the real work begins. Matvichuk must now start piecing together his team in order to make a run at a championship. With any other coach, I would be the first to pull back the reins on any expectations, but both Thiessen and Matvichuk made it very clear what they are trying to do. We've done our fair share of winning, but as I've said many times, if you don't win the last game of the season, it doesn't matter. Matvichuk has done that three times now over the course of his playing and coaching careers. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited to know that the man behind the bench for our Missouri Mavericks has his name etched into the most coveted trophy in all of sports. Now, it's on his shoulders to bring us the trophy that we all covet so dearly. Orange Pride.