Fort Wayne, IN-- The Fort Wayne Komets announced Tuesday that the team will return to play the weekend of February 12th for a fifty-game regular season. The start of training camp has yet to be determined with a regular season schedule to be released at a later date. The team also announced that forwards Justin Vaive, Anthony Nellis, and Austin McIlmurray have agreed to terms for the upcoming season.
“After thirty years of ownership, we've made a decision to resume play based on the cooperation of the Coliseum, the direction of the ECHL and for the opportunity for the community to support the Komets in these awful times," said Komets CEO Stephen Franke. “We hope the protocols established will make it a safe environment for the fans, players and the staff of the Komet Hockey team. We know this will be different than any other situation we've experienced in the three decades of ownership, so let me say, it's time to play Komet Hockey!”
This will be the Komets 69th season and the ninth in the ECHL. The team has not played a regular season game since March 11, 2020 when the Komets defeated the Wichita Thunder 7-2 at the Coliseum.
“After months of trying to navigate a path to play, taking all aspects into consideration, public safety, player and hockey operations safety and the ability to create some semblance of normalcy in our community we made the decision to play,” said Komet President Michael Franke. “We are hoping that this announcement will be a positive for our great community, and look forward to seeing our fans back at the games in a safe environment to watch Komet hockey.”
Vaive, 31, has played parts of six seasons with divisional rival Cincinnati. The 6'6 veteran forward was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL draft and made his ECHL debut with the Cyclones during the 2011-2012 season. The past two seasons the lefty forward had served as the Cyclones captain collecting 80 goals during his time in Cincinnati. The Buffalo, New York native has also played 280 games in the AHL with five different teams. Justin is the son of former NHL forward Rick Vaive.
“Justin is just a beast of a hockey player on the ice, a true professional, a leader, and somebody that will make a difference every time he steps on the ice," said Komets Head Coach Ben Boudreau. "He brings a very mature element to the way he approaches the game and makes everyone around him better both on and off the ice.”
Nellis, 26, first signed with the Komets in 2019 after his senior season at Lake Superior State. The 6'0 forward played ten regular season games with the Komets scoring five goals while adding three assists. Nellis also skated in five playoff games netting a goal and adding an assist.
“We welcome Nelly back after a great start with the Komets. He plays hard on both sides of the puck and can be relied upon to produce offensively,” said Head Coach Ben Boudreau. “His two-way abilities make him a coveted player and his personality fits great within our locker room.”
Last season Nellis played 47 games with the Idaho Steelheads registering 29 points that included 15 goals and 14 assists. The Breakeyville, QC native also earned three games with the Texas Stars of the AHL.
McIlmurray, 24, will be turning pro after a four-year collegiate career at Sacred Heart University. A native of Coral Springs, Florida the 5'11 185lbs forward put up impressive career college statistics that included recording 86 points in 137 college games.