The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 26, 2021 1:00 am

Chase continues to loom large

Memorial Game honors former K's broadcaster

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

As Bob Chase's legacy grew as the radio voice of the Fort Wayne Komets, so too did the tradition of the Komets playing at the Memorial Coliseum on Thanksgiving night, Chase's favorite holiday. Call it fitting, then, that after Chase's passing in 2016, the Komets franchise moved to call the annual Thanksgiving night home contest the Bob Chase Memorial Game.

Several years into his tenure calling Komet games on the radio, Shane Albahrani counts himself among the scores of Fort Wayne faithful that grew up listening to Chase. And words Chase routinely mentioned make this holiday stand out to Albahrani.

“(Komet hockey is) such a family, it's such a tradition,” Albahrani said. “It's generational. (Chase) always said hockey started on Thanksgiving night. Baseball was over, football was winding down and you kind of know what your team looks like, so hockey season really starts tonight.”

And despite a 3-2 loss to Toledo on Thursday in front of 7,877 fans, the Komets still hold a strong 38-17-5 record all-time on the holiday at the Coliseum.  Born Robert Wallenstein, Chase called Komets games in 63 of the club's first 65 seasons, making him the second-longest tenured announcer to Vin Scully's 67 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a single club in the history of broadcast sports.

In the 2021 iteration of the Bob Chase Memorial Game, Fort Wayne and Toledo sported throwback jerseys. The Komets opted for the orange and blue of the 1985-86 club, while the Walleye wore green and yellow Goaldigger attire.

On the night of Chase's passing back in 2016, longtime Komet Shawn Szydlowski honored the broadcaster in tremendous fashion, scoring a goal and drawing a misconduct penalty after a near-fight in a 6-1 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings.

Szydlowski, who re-signed Wednesday for his ninth season as a Komet, resumed his status as the last remaining active player with ties to Chase's tenure.

“He was the on-air personality that everyone knew and remembered and loved,” Szydlowski said. “He was a genuinely nice person and I think he touched everyone that he talked to. He just brightened up the room when he walked in. It's pretty cool to fall on this day. With everything it represents, it's very special.”

And Szydlowski will always remain tied to Chase, particularly in the eyes of Chase's daughter, Karin Thomsen, who recalled a touching moment after the 2016 Thanksgiving win.

“When Shawn and everyone else came back on the ice and kneeled and prayed, then held their sticks up, I had goose bumps for a month after that,” Thomsen said. “The whole Komet organization, even the very first night when Dad had passed, they already had the seven-minute production honoring him.

“They were just so good to him and they loved him so much, I will forever be indebted to them that they'll let his legacy live on.”

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