June 16, 2015. What should have been just another day in the endless offseason turned out to be a day that would change the Kansas City Mavericks organization. After one of the most trying seasons in Mavericks history, many moves were made to help build the team going forward. One of those moves came during the trade deadline of the 2014-15 season when leading scorer Josh Brittain was traded to the Ontario Reign for two players that none of us were too familiar with. One of those players was forward Tristan King who didn’t make it out of training camp before being dealt to Allen, the other was a guy who we all joked at the time had one of the best hockey names around. That player was Rocco Carzo. The rest is history, or history in the making I should say.
Carzo has become a fan-favorite over the years and rightfully so. He plays the game the right way, with intensity, grit, and an endless motor. He has tremendous vision and playing making ability on the offensive side of the puck, and is arguably the best defensive forward to ever come through Kansas City. His rapport with his teammates has made him loved in the locker room, and his genuine demeanor with the fanbase has extended that adoration across the Kanas City Metro area.
I am a big fan of the television series “The Office", one of the greatest shows of all-time. There is a line in the series finale when one of the characters proclaims: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Well my friends, that’s where we currently sit, and I think maybe we overlook that at times. So, rather than talk about what everyone already knows about Rocco Carzo, let’s talk about appreciating the moment that we are currently in:
Rocco Carzo is one of the greatest players in Kansas City Mavericks history.
His die-hard supporters will probably consider that statement a no-brainer. However, there is probably a great number of fans that probably don’t realize that. When looking at this resume in Kansas City, a resume that is still in progress mind you, it’s a pretty cut and dry case. Carzo is towards the top of the list in just about every statistical category. In the all-time franchise rankings, Carzo currently ranks third in games played with 242 (he’ll be in second place by the end of the season), fourth in goals scored with 66 (trailing only Andrew Courtney, Sebastien Thinel, and Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson), third in assists with 115, third in points with 181, second in power play goals with 24, third in power play assists with 31, and third in game-winning goals with 9. He is one of only two Mavericks to only play five or more seasons in Kansas City (Courtney played seven seasons). Looking at just the numbers, any argument against is futile at this point.
But as we all know, it’s about more than just numbers. It’s about identifying with a player and a player identifying with a fanbase. When Carzo went down with a horrific knee injury a couple of years ago, the toll that it took was palpable, and I’m not even referring to the physical and mental toll that it took on Carzo himself, which was monumental. I am talking about the toll that it took on this organization and this fanbase. It’s almost as if the rest of that season was spent as a mourning period. We all hurt for Carzo. We all were trying to pick ourselves up just as he was. We all were with him every step of the way as he fought his way back to the ice. That is the sign of a player that has been fully and purely embraced by a fanbase and community.
Carzo has been wearing the “C” on his chest for a couple of seasons now, and to be honest, we can count the year prior as well. He has been the leader of this team, not by telling the other players how to play this game the right way, but by showing them. Every season, every game, every shift he is out there more concerned about the Mavericks emblem on his chest than the nameplate on the back. Forechecking, backchecking, throwing his body in harms way, stepping up to guys twice his size, working his hind parts off down in the dirty areas that are so vital to his team’s success. He selflessly passes when he could very well shoot. He sets his teammates up with scoring opportunities that he could seize advantage of with ease. His love for the game is on full display every time his skates touch the ice. That’s what he does day in and day out. He’s not looking for cheers or adulation or pats on the back. He plays that way because that is the right way to play.
So, my advice to you moving forward is one that I’ve also given myself after this epiphany: enjoy the Good Old Days that we are currently in because they won’t last forever. We have the privilege of watching one of the all-time greats right now, playing at the top of his game, for a team that he loves to play for, in front of fans that he respects as much we respect him, for a community that has become a second home to him. Embrace this opportunity because time flies, my friends. Hockey will live on in Kansas City for a long, long time. But, hockey with Rocco Carzo on the ice has a shelf-life. Soak up every moment of greatness that you can. It shouldn’t be hard. Just keep your eyes peeled every time #12 hits the ice.