Ft. Wayne Komets vs Port Huron IceHawks: Never Say Die

How do you talk about the Fort Wayne Komets without talking about hockey history in the United States. Sure, Ft. Wayne, IN isn’t what you would call a major metropolis. The NHL will never look at the city for expansion. But Fort Wayne has a rich hockey history, with the Komets going back to at least 1952 in the city, when they started playing in the IHL (which was larger and better represented than today’s IHL). When the IHL folded, the Komets moved to the UHL, then to the new (or renamed UHL) IHL. The Komets are kind of like this sign:

Old school team support

Old school. If you want to find out more about the history of the Komets, check out Komets Legends.

Fort Wayne loves their Komets, leading the league in attendance in 2007-08, 2008-09, and this season as well. For this season, the Komets beat the other teams in attendance on average by over 3,700 per game, and almost doubled the attendance for the season of their nearest competitor.

When you see their arena, it’s easy to tell why:

(as with every photo, click to make it bigger)

MHK090.jpg

To the left of the arena is a convention center, but when you get inside the arena, it’s impressive:

MHK116.jpg

This is an arena most minor league teams at this level would kill for.

MHK115.jpg    MHK104.jpg

MHK440.jpg

These two photos are a bit of an experiment:

MHK444.jpg MHK445.jpg

On to the warm-ups. It isn’t unusual for minor league teams to wear sponsored warm up jerseys. The Motor City Mechanics of the old UHL had some of the worst, sponsored by McDonald’s (at least they didn’t have to wear red permed wigs), while the Quad City Mallards had the coolest, ditching the sponsors and creating something fairly unique (they are way cool in person). The Komets? They go where the money is. Mind you, check out the ice surface and tell me they are hurting for money.

MHK109.jpg

Kick ass Komets merch? Sure, how about a bowling ball?

MHK093.jpg

This game found the Komets fighting elimination, down three games to one in their series against the Port Huron Icehawks. Winner of the series moves on to the IHL Turner Cup finals, which the Komets won the last two years. With a lot on the line, we go to the action.

MHK140.jpg

This did not go in:

MHK169.jpg   MHK170.jpg

What did go in was an Icehawk puck with 3.2 seconds left in the first period. It wasn’t how the Komets wanted to head to the dressing room, and the Icehawks followed up with their second of the night only fifteen seconds into the second period. Things were looking ugly for the Komets, and the season had all the earmarks of a disappointing home loss and series finish. It took until the 7:50 mark of the second for Fort Wayne to get on the board.

Back to the action. I don’t want to give it all away just yet.

MHK201.jpg   MHK225.jpg

This could be the most perfect face off ever. The linesman should be proud of this one.

MHK226.jpg

MHK244.jpg MHK263.jpg

This is not how you want to see your goalie. Ever.

MHK318.jpg   MHK321.jpg

This one went in:

MHK344.jpg MHK345.jpg

MHK346.jpg MHK350.jpg

Why, yes, I was playing with the burst shooting on my camera. Why do you ask?

MHK354.jpg   MHK409.jpg

I don’t know what happened to the ref in a previous game, but it had to hurt.

MHK364.jpg  MHK361.jpg

This one is in:

MHK416.jpg MHK417.jpg

MHK418.jpg   MHK420.jpg

The Komets came back from behind to score seven unanswered goals. Seven. To say the wheels fell off the Icehawks bus would be putting it mildly. Things got a little chippy at the end of the game, but not as bad as some minor league games can get. A lot was at stake, and players wanted to avoid even a single game suspension going forward in the playoffs.

MHK424.jpg MHK391.jpg

Still, seven unanswered goals is quite something. Even the coaching staff couldn’t take it, heading back to the dressing room before the game was over (OK, in the last minute of play or so).

MHK430.jpg   MHK431.jpg

Look at the equipment manager on the right, being left out to dry.

The Komets went on to finish the game 7-2, and live to play another day (the next night actually). Here is the game sheet.

MHK433.jpg   MHK434.jpg

As the team was skating off the ice, one of the Komets grabbed the mic from the live post game interview and told the crowd they would see them back at the War Memorial Arena Monday night. It was a bold statement, meaning the team would have to win game six in Port Huron to force the game seven. A bold statement indeed.

Well, the Komets lived up to that promise, and beat the Icehawks in their own barn Saturday night, sending the game back to Fort Wayne for game seven. The game winning goal came with three seconds left in the game.

The day in Fort Wayne started with a trip to Sweetwater (an online music retailer), and a rather disturbing sight. It ended with a hell of a game, and a team that showed a lot of heart. Most of the hockey universe has turned it’s attention to the NHL playoffs, and it’s some of the best hockey in the world. But compared to the Blackhawks collapse at the feet of the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a damn shame more people can’t see the kinds of games that happen in the sheds, barns, and arenas around the minor leagues. I’m fairly lucky I get to see it. I love bringing it to you.

My only regret is I won’t be in Fort Wayne on Monday night. I never thought I would say that.

K-Wings Tonight

These are the only Wings I can get behind. Kalamazoo takes on Ft. Wayne in IHL playoff action.

My seat is right in from of the off-ice officials, so we will see how well they (or I) do.

Bootland seems to be a popular jersey, and I seem to remember him from the last time I was here. He may be the coach.

Note that the opposin bench is where the penalty boxes normally are, and the penalty boxes bookend the home bench. Welcome to the minors.

Minor League Update

So, the Cup has been handed out, but there are still some championships being played out. The Cincinnati Cyclones are up 3 games to 2 against the Las Vegas Wranglers in the ECHL, and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are down 3 games to none to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. After that, some stuff is going on.

The Youngstown Steelhounds found out they are not going to be part of the Central Hockey League, via a press release. As anything with hockey, it seems that money is the problem. The Steelhounds had already started selling season tickets for next year, so that puts them in a bad situation. The fans aren’t happy.

The Iowa Stars are no longer the Iowa Stars, after they have dropped their affiliation with Dallas, and have picked up the Anaheim Ducks as the new parent team. A new name, logo, and team colors should be coming soon.

The Austin Ice Bats (Central Hockey League) isn’t playing nest season, due to a lack of rink. Why should you care? Do you enjoy books? The book Zamboni Rodeo was about the Ice Bats, and while not a storied franchise, they have earned their spot. They may be better off, though. I skated with the team after a game, and it was the absolute worst ice I have ever been on.

The IHL (the make believe version of the International Hockey League) has announced their schedule for next season, which means they are still sticking with six teams. Unless the Steelhounds are able to get in there, this should be an embarrassment. While they may not tickle the radar of fans of the NHL, teams like the Fort Wayne Komets, Kalamazoo Wings, and the Flint Generals are as important, not only to the cities where they reside, but also in the grand scheme of hockey. These are teams that have a history, have persevered, and have fans just a as passionate as any team in the NHL.

Nothing new about Colorado Eagles player Les Borsheim, but the doctors are saying his surgery went well. After that, time will tell.

Expect more updates from the wacky world of minor league hockey, the best value on ice, through the offseason.

IHL Map

The map is up for the (new and nowhere near the same) IHL. For those of you who didn’t see it yesterday, I put maps up of the American Hockey League, and Central Hockey League, created with Google Maps. They are in the sidebar to the right, and I have more planned. While they are there just as much to make my own travel heavy life easier, other people may find them useful as well. Get out and see some hockey.

Map of the IHL

Enjoy.