Leading the team: the Isaac Barchus story


Ana Bellinghausen

Isaac Barchus on the shoulders of former Maverick hockey player Mason Morelli. Photo courtesy of OMavs.

Upon entering the Omaha Mavericks’ hockey locker room, the very first locker on the right stands out. It contains neither a helmet, nor pads, nor skates. The nameplate reads Isaac Barchus.

It’s a name not listed on the roster but etched into heart and soul of the Maverick hockey program.

Although Barchus won’t skate on the ice at Baxter Arena, the Maverick hockey team signed the 15-year-old in 2017 through Team Impact. Three seasons have passed since Barchus’ signing with the Mavericks, and he rarely misses home games.

“When I signed, it was overwhelming,” Barchus said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but the difference between [2017] and now is that everyone knows who I am. I consider them all friends.”

The games Barchus does miss, he is most likely receiving treatment in Washington, D.C. for C.A.N.D.L.E. syndrome, a rare genetic disease. Barchus is one of 60 known cases in the world with this disease. Despite constant pain, the Maverick signee doesn’t let it affect his positivity.

Barchus is rarely seen without a smile on his face—one would never guess the daily struggles he endures. The optimism Barchus brings to the hockey team does not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Isaac obviously has a huge impact on our team,” said Taylor Ward, a sophomore forward. “He’s a very good reminder that hockey is just a game and there’s much more to life. He helps us keep things in perspective.”

On game days, Barchus arrives early to watch the players warm up and then waits in the tunnel for pregame high-fives. Right before 7:07 p.m., Barchus taps a hockey stick against the top of the tunnel for good luck and heads to the locker room before taking his usual seat.

Once the puck is dropped and play is underway, one may spot the young fan with long, curly hair, refusing to sit down, shouting “let’s go” or “come on boys.” The crowd noise may drown out the encouraging words toward his teammates, but every player knows exactly where to look for in-game inspiration.

Just a section above the Mavericks’ bench, in an oversized UNO jersey filled with players’ signatures, Barchus stands for every first-goal fish toss and power play, cheering on his beloved team.

No matter the score, Barchus is there for all of it. However, the post-game ceremony after a win may be Barchus’ favorite part of gameday. The tradition began just a few seasons ago when Barchus joined the hockey squad.

After each Maverick victory, the team gathers with fans in the front entrance of Baxter Arena to sing the UNO fight song. Barchus is lifted upon the shoulders of a player in the middle as the team and fans sing in unison.

“Just seeing all of the players smile while we sing the fight song, it’s pretty cool,” Barchus said. “It’s the best part, for sure.”

Beyond the home games, Barchus attends practices, team bonding and even travels with the players to away games when he can. Between extensive treatments and still being a student at Westside High School, Barchus always finds time for his team.

“I like seeing the guys on the road,” Barchus said. “It’s a little bit different being on the road – there’s less fans there. I think me being there helps in support for them.”

Barchus won’t score any goals, record a save or assist, but the impact this young man has on the Maverick hockey program will last forever.

“I look up to all of the guys, and I think they’re all a part of my family,” Barchus said. “I couldn’t live without them.”