We walked to our final Komets hockey game of the season Wednesday evening. The Komets lost to the Toledo Walleye 3-2. The Komets, a rookie team in the ECHL, will miss the playoffs. The season ends Saturday with a game against the Kalamazoo Wings.
While the Komets are rookies in the ECHL, this is definitely not a rookie team. The Komets won the CHL championship a year ago and before that won three straight championships in the now-defunct reconstituted IHL.
Ah, the “I.” I loved the original IHL. The Komets had great rivalries with Kalamazoo and the Toledo Goaldiggers. Other great rivalries were with the Indianapolis Checkers/Ice, the Peoria Rivermen, the Muskegon Mohawks/Lumberjacks. My friend Randy and I went to road games often. My favorite place to watch a game was Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich. It’s an easy drive to Wings Stadium, just up I-69 to I-94 to the Sprinkle Road exit. You can see Wings Stadium from the highway. Another fun place to watch games was the Pepsi Coliseum in Indianapolis. Another easy drive, straight down I-69 to Binford Boulevard then Binford Boulevard to the State Fairgrounds.
The sometime in the 1990s, the IHL and Komets had different visions of where the league should be headed, so the Komets brass decided to pull the team out the the “I” and join the United Hockey League. The Komets had a fair amount of success in the UHL, winning the Colonial Cup in 2002-03. Eventually, the UHL ran out steam and the six or so teams that were left reconstituted the IHL. It wasn’t the same. Yes, the Komets had great success in the new “I,” winning the Turner Cup three years in a row, but they really were big fish in a small, very small, pond. The IHL was down the four members, so they were absorbed by the Central Hockey League. The Komets were last year’s CHL champ.
The Komets wanted a more Midwest-centered place to play, so the coast-to-coast ECHL took them in. The ECHL has 23 teams – nine in the Western Conference and 14 in the Eastern. The top eight in each conference make the playoffs. The Komets are on the outside looking in.