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. 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)
To the left of the arena is a convention center, but when you get inside the arena, it’s impressive:
This is an arena most minor league teams at this level would kill for.
These two photos are a bit of an experiment:
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.
Kick ass Komets merch? Sure, how about a bowling ball?
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.
This did not go in:
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.
This could be the most perfect face off ever. The linesman should be proud of this one.
This is not how you want to see your goalie. Ever.
This one went in:
Why, yes, I was playing with the burst shooting on my camera. Why do you ask?
I don’t know what happened to the ref in a previous game, but it had to hurt.
This one is in:
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.
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).
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.
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.