• Mavericks hockey players visit schools

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Members of the Kansas City Mavericks hockey team visited students in Fort Leavenworth schools Jan. 17.
    “The KC Mavericks initially reached out to post officials with an interest in partnerships and also mentioned they’ve done school visits before,” said Keith Mispagel, Unified School District 207 superintendent. “Our schools do floor hockey units each year so it seemed like a great opportunity to mix the two together.”
    Mispagel said the reason behind having the Mavericks come talk to the students was twofold.
    “I wanted our students to gain an understanding that education and hard work go hand in hand (and) that setting goals and working toward those goals is important even from an early age,” he said. “Secondly, I wanted the KC Mavericks players and staff to understand the uniqueness and resilience in our students. Most of the students have moved more times than the hockey players. The students know about hard work and dedication and could share that with the players as well.”
    Seven Mavericks players visited the schools. Offensive forward Eric Freschi and defenseman Nate Widman visited Eisenhower Elementary; offensive forward Shawn Pauly and defenseman Patch Alber visited Bradley Elementary; offensive forward Rocco Carzo and defenseman Bryce Aneloski visited MacArthur Elementary; and defenseman and team captain Tyler Elbrecht visited Patton Junior High.
    Elbrecht told Patton ninth-graders about himself and answered their questions before teaching them drills and playing a game of floor hockey with them. One of the questions posed to Elbrecht was about fights during games. Among the ECHL and the Mavericks, Elbrecht is known as the “Enforcer.”
    “It’s part of my job. I’ve had 80 to 90 career fights since I started,” he said. “Some people think it’s a blast (and) it’s fun, but being the ‘Enforcer’ sometimes isn’t always the best. You got to watch your head.”
    Elbrecht said he fights out of loyalty.
    “The main reason I do it is I’m pretty protective of my teammates. Sometimes you’re sticking up for somebody (and) sometimes you’re sticking up for yourself,” Elbrecht said. “If you mess with (my team, my family) you’re going to get punched in the face by somebody on our team whether it’s me or someone else.”
    Elbrecht, who has been playing hockey since he was 8 years old, also played soccer, baseball, basketball and volleyball, but said when he reached eighth-grade decided to focus on hockey.
    “I like fast pace. I like competition and I’m a very competitive person,” he said. “With hockey, every time you step on the ice, you’re competing.”
    Page 2 of 2 - When asked, Elbrecht said he wouldn’t change anything about his professional career.
    “I’m pretty open-minded about most things (and) I’m a pretty big fan of things happen for a reason,” he said. “There’s always experience in our line of work, bad or good, but you grow from those. I can look back and say I got to play pro for five years, and there’s thousands of people that want my job, so I don’t have too many negatives.”
    Patton ninth-grader Samantha Lendo said Elbrecht showed her that it’s important to be passionate about what you’re doing.
    “He was super passionate about (hockey) and that was super interesting that someone could devote so much of everything that they have to something,” Lendo said. “Professional sports players often come off as very professional, but he seemed very laid back and happy to be here to talk to us and I very much appreciated that.”
    Patton ninth-grader Jacob Smith said he thought it was cool that the Mavericks came to talk to them and that Elbrecht gave him hope.
    “I think it’s neat that they came out here to talk to us because we’re not one of the bigger schools,” Smith said. “I think it’s pretty cool what (Elbrecht) had to say. He seems like what one of us would be like in the future. He gives me hope that I might become a professional athlete at some point.”
    Tricia Dreiling, girl’s physical education and health teacher at Patton, said having the Mavericks come to Fort Leavenworth offered a unique experience for the students.
    “I just think it’s really important, especially for military because it gives them a reason to be attached to Kansas City just because they’re always moving,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to meet a professional athlete (and) somebody that does that for a living and gets paid for it. It gives you a tie to the sport.”
    Mispagel said he is grateful for what the KC Mavericks do for the military.
    “I appreciate the KC Mavericks players and staff for their support of the military and their interest in honoring our soldiers and families at some of their upcoming home games,” he said. “This was an opportunity for them to see first-hand our students in action at school.”
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