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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Brett Perlini shows off his jersey during Tuesday's aution while public address announcer Larry Schmitt, center, points toward a bidder in the Appleseed Room in Memorial Coliseum. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 1:00 am

Komets give their final goodbyes

End-of-year party raises $22,600 for local charities

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Money raised

Total raised: $22,600 for various charities

Top jersey sellers: Mike Cazzola, $1,600; Jamie Schaafsma, $1,500; Shawn Szydlowski, $1,500, Mike Embach, $1,400

Fan contribution: Tina Mohr's scrapbook, $250 to fight juvenile diabetes

The Komets' first end-of-season party and jersey auction came in 1991, in the basement of Memorial Coliseum, attended by a couple of hundred fans less than a year after the Franke family had taken ownership of the team.

“It was great. It was a wild night and we decided that it's something we have to do every year,” team President Michael Franke said.

The concept is still going strong.

Hundreds of fans gathered at the Coliseum's Appleseed Room on Tuesday, just three days after the season ended in Game 5 of the Central Division finals in Toledo, and they were able to chat up coach Gary Graham, bid on game-worn jerseys and take a last gander at the 2016-17 players.

The team raised $22,600 for local charities. Mike Cazzola's jersey went for the highest amount, $1,600, while Jamie Schaafsma's and Shawn Szydlowski's sold for $1,500 each.

This party was more emotional than most because Bob Chase, the Komets' broadcaster for 64 years, wasn't there to kick off the auctioneering. Chase, who died Thanksgiving morning at 90, had missed only one of the end-of-season parties – in 1998 after heart surgery.

“I know Bob would say, 'Michael, the show must go on.' That's what we've done. His voice is silent, but his legacy will live on with the Komets forever,” Franke said, minutes before public-address announcer Larry Schmitt and new broadcaster Shane Albahrani did the auctioneering.

Some of the players may retire, others will go to Europe, some the Komets won't try to re-sign and others – the organization won't have room to protect.

“This (party) shows how much the fans love their Komets. It's definitely a hotbed of hockey in this city and they cheer us on,” said captain Jamie Schaafsma, who may put off retirement.

The Komets, who finished with the fourth-best regular-season record in the ECHL, defeated the Quad City Mallards in five games before losing to Toledo.

“This is definitely bittersweet because the season is over, but it's nice to see everyone at least one more time,” forward Kyle Thomas said.

Players such as Thomas, who got his first career call-up to the American Hockey League, and Cazzola, who was selected MVP by his teammates as a rookie, could parlay their strong seasons into tryouts with higher-level teams.

“You're always looking forward to things like that, but it will take care of itself in the summer. I'm just trying to have fun with the guys here, have our last hurrah and start looking toward next year,” Thomas said, adding that a few days had lessened the hurt of losing to rival Toledo. “Nothing's as bad as the initial sting. It's still not what we wanted to do, not where we wanted to end up, but it was still a good year.”

Since the end-of-season parties began, the Komets have won six championships.

“When we first started doing this it, it was always kind of a bummer because it was (a signal of) the end of the season and we thought we were going to win all the time,” Franke said. “As we've grown older, we've realized that this is a very good night, a very special night for the fans. It's an opportunity for the fans to say goodbye to the team they've enjoyed this year and an opportunity to raise some funds for local charities.”

jcohn@jg.net