By: Joe Rozycki
With Season 10 just around the corner, there are certainly many things to come to celebrate the history of the Kansas City Mavericks. On Thursday, the organization announced something that fans have been clamoring for to help honor and commemorate those players that have dedicated so much to this team and community.
Earlier in the offseason, the Mavericks announced that they had assembled a committee comprised of season ticket holders, members of the media, and those heavily involved with the game of hockey in the Kansas City area with the purpose of establishing criteria for former players to have their jersey hang high above the ice at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, their number retired never to be adorned again.
This sent the fan base into a frenzy. Immediately, the discussions and debates began to roar as who would be the first to receive this honor. Everyone had their own argument, and no argument was a bad one. After all, we’ve had the privilege of watching some pretty incredible players come through Kansas City. It was hard to poke holes in any justification for any of the players being mentioned.
Well, on Thursday, we finally got our answer. Sebastien Thinel will be the first Maverick to be honored and the number 43 will fly above the ice forever.
I don’t want to pour over the numbers because honestly, everyone should go look at them to have that moment of marvel like I did. We all know what Thinel meant, and still means to this organization. We all remember some of the incredible moments he provided in which just about everyone turned to the person seated next to them and asked the same question of “Did that really just happen?”
The guy was an absolute magician on the ice. He had this innate ability to see the progression of a play three or four moments ahead of time. He knew where he was going with the puck long before it ever reached his stick blade. He could score with the best of them. He made his professional debut in the 2002-03 season and in 12 of the next 12 seasons, he posted 20 or more goals. What is even more insane about that is that scoring wasn’t even the best part of his game. He was the ultimate playmaker. His ability to get the absolute most out of anyone that was lucky enough to play on the same line as him is what truly set him apart. Scoring goals? Yeah, no problem. It’s the assists that truly set him apart.
Think about some of the best seasons players have had in regards to scoring goals. What names come to mind? Kenton Miller was the first Maverick to post 30 goals in a season. Thinel was on his line and had 67 assists in 66 games that season. What about Eric Castonguay? He put up 31 goals in 2013-14. Thinel had 71 assists in 65 games that season, much of it alongside Castonguay. What about the franchise leader in goals scored, Andrew Courtney? 119 of his 149 career goals came while he was a teammate with Thinel. The good players can put up numbers on their own. The great players can make everyone around them better. Thinel did both, and that’s not something you see very often.
Off the ice, Thinel was just as influential. He made this community his home and genuinely cared for not only the fans that spent their hard-earned money just to come see him perform with his incredible abilities, but all those he came in contact with during his time in Kansas City. He was terrific with the media through good times and bad. He always made time for everyone. He would sign an endless amount of autographs for anyone that asked. He would stick around long after team events concluded to talk about Mavs hockey and just life in general. He is a genuine person in an all too often disingenuous world.
Here’s one final thought on the career of Sebastien Thinel, and I’ve always felt like it is something that is never discussed but it should be. Prior to the 2014-15 season, the ECHL absorbed the remaining teams of the now defunct Central Hockey League, including the Mavericks. While it was a historic day and a day to be celebrated, it robbed us all of a moment over a decade in the making. At that moment in time, Thinel was a mere 67 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in Central Hockey League history. Sixty-seven points for Sebastien Thinel is a walk in the park. That season in the ECHL, Thinel posted 70 points, which would have put him atop that list. This is something that he’ll likely never discuss, and it’s something that got lost in the shuffle and chaos of joining the ECHL, but Thinel earned and deserved his moment in the sun, and it never came. Sebastien Thinel could be the best hockey player to ever play at this level, and somehow that has become overlooked. That stops now.
With this historic announcement from the Mavericks, I implore you all to look at everything Thinel has accomplished: MVP awards, championships, scoring titles, the list goes on and on. But more importantly, go back and read the plenteous number of articles and features written about him. Read his story on and off the ice. Remember the moments of awe-inspiring magic. As the number 43 slowly rises to the rafters, stand, cheer, and salute the captain of all captains of your Kansas City Mavericks.