For some of the Komets newer fans, Saturday night was their first taste of seeing Jamie Milam and his rocketing shot. He actually put one into the net, when his blast from the top of the left circle crept underneath goaltender Pier-Olivier Pelletier, but it was waved off because the referee had blown the whistle early.
And the Komets lost 5-0 to the Evansville IceMen.
But it wasnt Milams debut in a Fort Wayne uniform; that came in 2006, when he skated 13 games as a rookie, scoring six goals and 12 points.
I always knew Id end up back here, Milam said. It was just really a great place to start my career. There are a lot of fans, and they love hockey here.
Milam and general manager David Franke kept in touch, speaking on a yearly basis.
It seemed like the best place for me to go, Milam said. Its not weird. I wanted to be here.
Even if Milams name rang familiar for some of the 10,071 fans at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, he may have looked much different. When last with the Komets, he was a forward. He has since morphed into one of the more prolific-scoring defensemen in minor-league hockey. He had 17 goals and 48 points in 66 games last season with Bossier-Shreveport, which won the CHL championship before folding due to financial problems.
Well, I played defense most of my life, said Milam, a native of Lake Orion, Mich. It was just in college (at Northern Michigan), we had a lot of strong defensemen, and I was the most gifted offensively and we had some injuries up front. They said, Hey, Milam, what do you think about playing forward? And it just stuck.
After his stint with the Komets, he joined Gwinnett of the ECHL and was back on the blue line, scoring 35 goals and 101 points in 140 games.
When I first came down (to Fort Wayne), I was just happy to be here, Milam said. But at some point, I just decided I wanted to be a pro defenseman.
Milam and Komets center Brett Smith both played last season for the Mudbugs, one of four teams to leave the CHL, which is down to 14.
We had a group of guys that got an inkling (the team could fold) a couple months before it happened, Milam said. We decided as a group to just play strong. If we won and went out on top, whats better than doing that? We had a good push in the playoffs. We had a feeling something was going to happen (in the offseason), but it didnt matter to us. We just wanted to win. We had some older guys who deserved that championship, so we wanted to win for those guys and for the organization.
Now hes trying to return the Komets to greatness, after they were eliminated by Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals last spring.
The Komets didnt get off to a good start Saturday, though.
There are 66 games, Smith said. You obviously want to win your home opener. Its a big deal. Youve got lots of fans in the building. But its a marathon right now. That was mile one of a 66-mile marathon.
Weve got a lot of work to do, but everyone has got a lot of work to do around the league. Weve just got to come together.