FORT WAYNE – What we’ve seen in the past week is a testament to fans of the Komets.
Even though the team had already been eliminated from playoff contention, and was on the cusp of completing its worst season since 1997, more than 100 fans drove 117 miles to Kalamazoo, Mich., to see the 3-2 loss to the Wings on Friday.
A crowd of 9,919 then saw the season finale, a 4-2 victory over the Wings on Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
And on Tuesday, the final goodbye to the players of 2012-13: About 800 fans packed the Appleseed Room at the Coliseum for the annual jersey auction.
It’s devotion, said 55-year-old Ed Ralston, a ticket holder for about 20 years, as he waited for the opening faceoff Friday. We’re not making the playoffs and this is the last chance for Komets hockey for months.
Five sections away at Wings Stadium, 44-year-old Brad Menshy, who’s had tickets since the early 1990s, had similar words.
We’re just devoted fans and love the Komets, he said.
Menshy said the Komets must prioritize getting offensive players this summer.
It’s hard to win hockey games when you are only scoring two or three times per game, he said.
Ralston, who saw the Komets win four championships between 2008 and 2012 in the IHL and CHL, wants greater speed and size to match other ECHL teams.
They changed leagues of course and weren’t ready for the younger, faster teams of the ECHL. Then, call-ups and injuries just killed them, he said, noting the Komets struggled entering the CHL but won the title in their second season there.
Hopefully, they’ve figured out what they need and will make the changes necessary this summer.
Almost all the Komets were in attendance Tuesday. Goalie Jeff Deslauriers had been called up to Anaheim of the NHL. Defenseman Nick Schaus had been called to Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
Captain Colin Chaulk was in South Carolina coaching a youth team. And forward Thomas Beauregard had personal matters.
For the rest, they heard questions but didn’t have many answers. And they admitted most won’t be back next season.
The (owners) take this stuff seriously. It’s a business, and they want winners, center Brett Smith said. This group obviously didn’t do it. The reason why, I don’t exactly know. It just didn’t come together. It wasn’t from a lack of effort.
But (the Frankes) want to win and they’ll do what it takes. You’ll see some faces back, but there will be a lot of new faces come training camp.
The jerseys of Brandon Marino and Jean-Michel Rizk went for the high of $1,500, and $16,125 was raised for various charities.
You want to be in the playoffs, and you want a shot to win the trophy every single year. Only two times out of my nine years have I not been in the playoffs, Smith said. I’m definitely not used to it, but the guys worked hard and I’m proud to have them as teammates.