Peter South has been behind the scenes working as a scout for the Komets, off and on, since 1999. He's helped find players coming out of junior or college hockey – Daniel Maggio and Alan Lyszczarczyk are a couple – and has been an advance scout gauging strengths and weaknesses of Fort Wayne opponents
“Peter's been very valuable over the years,” Komets general manager David Franke said.
South has also coached and recruited against the Komets. He was the general manager and Jason Muzzatti's assistant coach for the Flint Generals team that lost to Fort Wayne in the 2010 International Hockey League finals.
“The Komets were a powerhouse, well-coached with great players. They were the team to beat,” South said. “We were thankful that year to make the playoffs and just to survive (business-wise). We did have a lot of fun.”
Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau, who played for Flint that season, inadvertently helped end South's coaching career.
“Just before we started the finals against Fort Wayne, in a practice Benny took my legs out from behind me and almost killed me,” South said, chuckling. “He'd lost an edge (skating). It took me awhile (to get better) and that's one of the reasons I didn't coach much after. ... I suffered a massive concussion and he totally blew out my shoulder.”
After the IHL was absorbed by the Central Hockey League in the summer of 2010, South began working again for the Komets and he's remained since.
His suggestion of Maggio, who had just finished his Ontario Hockey League season and was looking to join the pros late in 2011-12, was instrumental in Fort Wayne winning the CHL championship that season. South has helped steer players such as Jamie Schaafsma, who became Fort Wayne's captain, Craig Cescon and Kyle Hope in the Komets' direction.
“Peter knows the type of player we like to have on our team,” Franke said. “If we give him a specific assignment, like we're looking for a goalie or a defenseman, he'll offer his input. He sees a lot of games.
“He's a puckhead like we all are. He loves the game and has loved it since he was a kid. It's what he's really worked in his whole life, in whatever capacity of the hockey world, and we value his experience, his knowledge and his opinions.”
Based in Windsor, Ontario, South, 60, scouts junior and college games throughout the province and the Midwest. He'd logged almost 100 games this season before the coronavirus pandemic halted play.
While he didn't play at a high level, he's got experience at all tiers of hockey, including short stints as a head coach in the IHL and CHL. Many of his connections have come through his day job – supplying Renfrew hockey tape to hockey leagues.
For the Komets, South watches players, finds out background on them and turns in reports to Franke and Boudreau.
“I know a lot of people in a lot of these leagues, and also from my coaching, too, so I have a lot of courses by which I can find out information about players,” South said. “Sometimes I'll go directly and talk to players. It varies, especially with the time of year. If it's early in the year, I'm not going to bother talking to them; I'll see how they do, watch them play, first.”
Many players South has analyzed fell through the cracks of NHL scouting departments. With some, South felt their skill sets would make them better pros than they were amateurs.
While he recommends players from many amateur circuits, ultimately his ideas have to jibe with those of Franke and Boudreau.
“I'm a fan of players from juniors. All the juniors, they play a schedule similar to ours and they're used to the wear and tear,” Franke said. “Compared to the university teams, which (may) play only 25 or 30 games all year, they can get into a 72-game schedule and halfway through they can run out of some gas. So I'm a big fan of the OHL. Yeah, they're young players, but they're used to playing a lot of games.”
South's relationship with the Komets dates back to 1999, the team's first season in the United Hockey League. South had been an assistant coach and scout for the original IHL's Detroit Vipers, where he worked with former Fort Wayne coach John Torchetti, so Franke knew his name.
“I got a call, I guess it was from David, right around Christmastime in that 1999-2000 season and (Fort Wayne coach) Dave Allison had to go back home (because of a family commitment) and they needed a coach to help them out in Port Huron that night,” South said. “So I went up and did that. That's how it started and we've kept in touch ever since.”