The Komets have a long history of pairing brothers together on the ice. The next brotherly combination to follow in the footsteps of the Molles, Stewarts and others will suit up for Fort Wayne starting next season.
On Thursday afternoon, the Komets announced the signings of defenseman Nick Boka, 22, and his younger brother, forward Luke Boka, 21. They bring the Fort Wayne roster to 17 players for the upcoming season, with 10 forwards, six defensemen and a goaltender already in the fold.
The Bokas have not played on the same team together since they were children, so they'll be figuring out how to play with each other on the ice just like they will with their new teammates.
“I'm not sure,” Luke Boka said of how playing with his older brother will work. “I know just about as much as anyone else. We've never played together, so it's going to be quite an experience and hopefully it works out well.”
Despite never teaming up before, the Bokas decided that Fort Wayne was the place for them. Nick Boka was a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2015 before going on to a four-year career at Michigan, during which he helped the Wolverines to two NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the Frozen Four in 2018.
Nick Boka played for the Allen Americans last season. Luke Boka, meanwhile, has spent the last five years with the Windsor Spitfires, a junior team in the Ontario Hockey League. He set a club record for games played with 313 and won a league title in 2017.
Luke Boka had a collegiate opportunity waiting for him at Queen's University in Ontario, but after a visit to Fort Wayne to meet with the Komets and visiting Memorial Coliseum, he and his brother were sold.
“We just both wanted the opportunity to play together,” Luke Boka said. “Fort Wayne's close to home (the brothers are from Plymouth, Michigan), it was just the best fit for both of us and our family. It was good for us and I wanted to stay stateside, so I didn't have to go back to Canada, and (Nick) wanted to be close to home, as well, after playing in Texas.”
Komets coach Ben Boudreau was excited about landing both, noting that it might be a rare opportunity for them to play together.
“Having two brothers myself, I don't blame them,” Boudreau coach said.
Boudreau believes both can contribute immediately and emphasized he would have signed them individually even if they weren't brothers. Luke Boka, who was a two-year captain with Windsor, adds even more depth to an already strong forward unit and brings leadership and championship experience, Boudreau said.
“You can't just bring in high-scoring forwards,” Boudreau said. “You need guys that are going to play certain roles, and Luke has been terrific in that role at Windsor, being a defensive forward. He can play the right, he can play the middle, he can block shots, he's great on the penalty kill. ... I think he's going to fit really well in a supporting role for us.”
As for Luke's older brother, Boudreau said Nick fits with the team's concept on defense, which involves using team strength to the Komets' advantage.
“Nick sort of rounds out that defensive corps,” Boudreau said. “If you look at the six (defensemen) we've signed, all of them are over 6-foot-1, all of them can play with an edge, all of them can move the puck and skate.
“Our identity is that we're going to be big and strong and we're going to be able to play at both ends of the rink with those guys and Nick is a perfect example of that because he does everything well: he can skate, he's got a great shot, he can pass and he's got that physical side that you're going to need to have in this (Central) division.”
The Boka brothers join not only the Molles (who played for the Komets in 2011-12) and the Stewarts (2003-04), but a line of sibling pairings that stretches back more than half a century and includes the Pooleys (1986-87), the Salvuccis (1985-86), the Blondins (1955-56) and the Buchanans (1952-53).