People define leadership in different ways, and if you asked 10 different people what the best quality of a leader is you are likely to get 10 different answers. For the past five seasons anyone associated with the Mavericks could essentially define leadership by one man’s name – Rocco Carzo. There is no need to go over all of his stats, Joe or Adam will have that covered and the Mavericks twitter account has pushed all of that information out already. Just think back to each game you went and watched; no matter the score, no matter how much time was left on the clock – who could you count on to be battling away in the corners or taking the abuse that comes with working your way to the front of the net? It seems cliché to use the “he never takes a shift off” line – often times a filler-backhanded compliment used to try and come up with something nice to say about a player who isn’t the fastest, strongest or most skilled. Not the case with Rocco Carzo. When #12 took the ice, you knew that every stride was purposeful, and every ounce of energy was being dedicated to that shift. He has the respect of the front office, his coaches, trainers, equipment managers, teammate’s, media, fans, on and off-ice officials and players league-wide. Take a moment to think about how many people that is. Take a moment to think about how special a person must be to garner that kind of respect from that many people, for five seasons. There were ups and downs during his time with the Mavericks. There was winning and losing, and injuries. Some injuries worse than others, like the ACL tear. Instead of allowing that to bring him down all we heard from Mavericks trainer Nick Potter was the herculean type approach Rocco took to getting himself back to the game he loved. Rocco never does anything “halfway”, it is all or nothing and that approach is what led him to be – in my opinion – one of the best to ever pull on the Mavericks sweater.
But even more importantly then his accolades and on-ice accomplishments are the kind of guy he is off the ice. Regardless of the outcome of a game, without fail you could find Rocco in the concourse just outside of the Mavericks locker room “shaking hands and kissing babies”. A fan favorite, he would take time for anyone who spoke to him. I wasn’t a great athlete and not even that good at baseball but was lucky to get to play in college and can tell you unequivocally there’s no way I could have interacted with fans after a game my team had just lost like Rocco. He generally cares for the fans and people of Kansas City. From a “media” standpoint he would be willing to jump on a podcast or talk after a game whenever called upon. There is no chance he always wanted to do it, but we could count on him none-the-less and that meant so much to each of us.
I was thinking back on my favorite Rocco Carzo memory and this may be an obvious one – but there was so much talk in the off season leading into the 2018-19 season about what it would mean to get him back into the lineup and as referenced earlier, all of the hard work (by the way, he never took credit for any of it – only praised and thanked continuously Nick Potter) he put into getting ready for the season, to see him on opening night in only the second time in franchise history the Mavericks opened at home, pick up the loose puck at the right-wing faceoff circle, cut to the front of the net and go back hand/forehand, sliding the puck five-hole past the Allen American goaltender…scoring in his first game back three and half minutes into the game. Perfect.
I know this brought a tear to his father’s eye and I can’t write about Rocco Carzo IV without mentioning it’s not in the least bit surprising the kind of man “RC IV” turned out to be after having the honor and privilege to get to know his father Rocco Carzo III. One of the kindest men I know with a giant heart – it was always such a great time when he’d join the Mavs Insiders Pre-Game show or to get to say hello before or after a game in the concourse. Congratulations to you and your wife on raising such good kid.
To Rocco Carzo I simply want to say a profound thank you, from the bottom of my heart for everything you did for the Mavericks and the community. Best of luck to you and hopefully one day the Eagles can get back to the Super Bowl… and lose to the Chiefs.
I posted this on Twitter the other day, but I’ll open with it here, as well. I remember the first time I ever met Rocco Carzo. There was an autograph signing in the team store on a Thursday night and it just happened that I had that night off of work. So, I grabbed my oldest son and went up there so he could meet a couple of players. This was before I had started writing with Joe, so meeting players wasn’t something that my son got to do a lot. This particular Thursday, it was Rocco and Josh Robinson signing autographs. Both of them were incredibly gracious, but on that night, Rocco really connected with my then, very shy six year old son, and they quickly became friends.Friendship is what I think we all feel like we have with Rocco Carzo. Last year, when I shot him a text to tell him that my son is doing a fourth grade presentation on hockey for his end of the year project, it wasn’t a response of, “Oh, that’s cool”, but instead a response of “When do you need me to be there?”. The faces of a class of 4th graders when the captain of the Kansas City Mavericks walked in the room was unbelievable. The relationships he has built with the fans, media, teammates, coaches, arena staff, front office personnel, and the community is what will ultimately be the toughest thing for the Mavs organization to replace. Watching him coach up kids on and off the ice, the work that he has done with the KC Warriors organization and his family’s support of Have a Skate With Bob and the fight against pancreatic cancer, have cemented his place as one of the all-time Mavericks greats….without one mention of what he has done on the ice in his playing time here.His play on the ice inspires us all to work harder, be better, give more effort, and leave it all out there night in and night out. His recovery from a devastating knee injury has inspired us that all things are possible if we’re willing to work hard enough at it. His interactions with fans are priceless, as is his relentless defending of Nick Foles as a legit NFL quarterback.The passion with which #12 engaged each and every challenge in front of him throughout his career is what we should all take away from his playing days. I’ll go ahead and put it out there, this team has never had a better two-way forward, but they may have never had a better ambassador for the organization and hockey in this town. Rocco Carzo was everything you could ever want out of a Maverick; tough, gritty, fearless, courageous, determined, and unafraid. This organization has been built on those principles and Carzo will long be remembered as one of its’ greatest to embody them. I can’t say for sure that we will see #12 raised to the rafters someday, but the conversation will definitely be had, and rightfully so. For all the memories, #12, we say thank you.
How do you measure the true greatness of a hockey player? The prevailing argument tends to lean towards statistics. How productive was that player during his playing career? How many goals did he score? What was his plus/minus? How productive was he on special teams? These are all tangible numbers that can be seen with the human eye on a sheet of paper. Using this method is not necessarily incorrect. It is just incomplete and definitely insufficient.Stats matter, and I get that. While they define certain aspects of a hockey player, they do not truly define the whole picture, more importantly, who that hockey player is as a man. The contributions on the ice are valuable but the contributions elsewhere are equally as important, I would argue. When a player is acquired by the Mavericks, we all have a checklist that we go through in our heads regarding our expectations in which we will hold said player. We start doing our research. We look at career statistics, his numbers of the last few years, identify trends, look up highlights, and anything else to help us get a better grasp on the player we are getting. We all did this with Rocco Carzo.We loved the name. It was such a hockey player name. But when we did our digging, we started to realize he was so much more than just a name. His numbers were great and consistent. The tape showed a solid two-way player that was committed to playing great defensive hockey, and dynamic with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. The excitement began to grow but we still did not know him. How was he going to fit in the locker room? Would he even like playing here? Would he like being in Kansas City? Was he just a short timer that would be here one minute and gone the next? Only time would tell.Win or lose, the Orange Army holds one trait above all: effort. If the players on the ice are giving it their very all night in and night out, that barn will be packed to the brim. Mavericks fans have proven that time and time again. We are a community of hard-working people that love our hockey and that is what we expect from our hockey team as well. We want guys that are going to come to work, work their hind parts off for 60 minutes a night, and then come back the next day to do it all over again. That is the backbone of this fanbase and an expectation that they have held every single team to over the years. The players that have embraced this mentality are forever beloved regardless of where they fall on the all-time points list. That is why you hear Mavs fans talk so passionately about some of their all-time favorites. You could ask 10 different Mavericks fans to name their top three favorite Mavericks of all-time and would likely get at least 20 different players in response. The guys who left everything out on the ice are the guys that will forever live in Mavericks lore. Carzo is part of an elite club. He has always been the player to leave everything out on the ice. He immediately earned the respect of every fan with his style of play: aggressive but poised, fearless but calculated, team-first, accountable, responsible, dedicated, and ruthless. Watching him hop off the bench for a shift was likely watching a surgeon in the operating room. Every movement was precise. Every stride with purpose. Every action to set up the next two or three sequences up the ice. Few players have had that kind of impact on the ice, but the one that comes to mind is Sebastien Thinel. That is the level that Carzo has elevated himself too, and all-time great.
However, his on-ice contributions are only a drop in the bucket. I can look at a sheet of paper and see the numbers: second in all-time games played, second in all-time goals, second in all-time assists, third in all-time points. That alone is enough to put him on the Mount Rushmore of Mavericks, but there is so much more to him. As impressive as Rocco Carzo the player is, Rocco Carzo the man is equally as admired, and rightfully so. His sincere affection for his teammates and every member of the Orange Army was put on display anytime a familiar face came into his orbit. He would always make sure he made time for anyone that wanted to spend at least a few minutes with him, and that was a long list. He always wanted to talk hockey, but while doing so, he wanted to learn about you as a person. He wanted to know what was going on in your life, your family, your job because he genuinely cared about you as a human being. He loved being in Kansas City, but loved Kansas Citians that much more. This community became his second home and every member of the Orange Army became an extension of his incredible family.
So back to that checklist. I remember when the Mavericks acquired Carzo and I went through my checklist. I learned a lot from research and film. I learned a lot by recognizing trends and got a decent idea of what kind of player we were getting. I felt at ease that we had received a talented hockey player that would help this organization rebuild from a trying season the year prior. Then I started digging some more. I saw the interactions from fans on social media, many of whom reached out to me personally. They raved – not about Carzo the player – but about Carzo the man. They spoke of this guy as if he were unlike any other of the thousands of players they had seen in their lifetimes. You know what? They were right. He is unlike anything they had seen, and he is unlike anything we have seen or will likely see again. Take that piece of paper with all the statistics on it, crumble it up, and toss it in the trash. We do not need it to ascertain the importance of Rocco Carzo in this organization’s history. Look at the pictures, watch the videos, and think about the many times you had the chance to speak with him in person. That player we all wanted to know is our brother now. He is our friend. He is our leader. He is our captain. There will never be another Rocco Carzo. He is our Maverick.