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Ice Chips

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  • AHL could be coming to town
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  • Szydlowski returns to Komets
    Right wing Shawn Szydlowski has agreed to terms and will return to the Komets in 2014-15, the club announced today.
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What the future holds? I don't know.

And Komets add goaltender Koenig

Every day, I hear more rumors about what the Komets will do next season.

I wish I had answers for you, but I do not.

"We've just got to sit here and wait and see how it all shakes out of the next three or four weeks," team president Michael Franke said. "But our goal is to bring back our team in the IHL. That's the goal of all of the teams. But we are keeping an eye on everything else."

That's about all Franke will say, for now, on the matter. He typically plays things close to the vest, but he also just doesn't know what the future will hold for his franchise or many other teams out there.

Hockey is in in flux at every level of the minor leagues, and what happens will all be dictated by what NHL teams decide to do with several American Hockey League affiliates.

Then there will be a trickle-down effect.

For the Komets, they could end up in any of four leagues: the IHL, AHL, ECHL or Central Hockey League.

The best I can tell, talking to my sources, is that the Komets want to do what makes the most financial sense, and that would be having a lot of teams in close proximity.

While it's easy to surmise the IHL won't make it because of the departure of Muskegon, the uncertain situation in Flint and the possibility that the league may not be able to add any teams this season, that doesn't necessarily mean the Komets would be a shoo-in for the AA-level ECHL. There are many rumors swirling with that league, including one that has Kalamazoo going to the Ontario Hockey League, a junior circuit.

The Komets would like to find find a way to stay with Quad City, Bloomington, Port Huron and Evansville (which is supposed to join the IHL in 2011), a source said, since it would mean there would be guaranteed geographic sanity for all of them. But whether all the teams see things the same way is not for sure.

While I never thought the Komets would take a serious look at the AA-level Central Hockey League, since there's no one in close proximity now, it would start to make some sense if they got four other IHL teams to go with them.

As for the AHL, two sources have told me the Komets have had some talks with them, but it remains a long shot because of the huge expenses that come with fielding a team one step below the NHL, because the Komets would lose control of their personnel and, perhaps most importantly, because fans in Fort Wayne would probably be unwilling to pay the steep ticket prices needed for the Komets to break even. The only way it would work would be for an NHL team which owns its AHL franchise to take a flier on Fort Wayne, cutting the costs greatly.

I don't see the AHL happening, much as I'd like to have AAA-level hockey back in Fort Wayne, after the Komets dropped from the old IHL in 1999.

The Komets have no interest in junior hockey, though Muskegon is going to the United States Hockey League, and Flint could get a North American Hockey League team in addition to or instead of the Generals. One thing of note is that the Komets' lease with Memorial Coliseum requires them to field a pro team.

At the end of the day, what do I see happening? Forced to guess, I think the IHL will be back. It seems less of a risk for Quad City, Bloomington, Port Huron, Dayton and Fort Wayne to stay together and find another fill-in -- even if it means they have to flip the bill for another team -- than to go with some huge unknown at this point.

Then again, everything is an unknown and nothing that happens in the coming weeks and months would surprise me.

  • With Tim Haun out for the rest of the games this weekend, the Komets have added former NHLer Parris Duffus, a member of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, as an emergency backup for Thursday's game against Dayton. For games Friday and Saturday, they will add Matt Koenig, who played last season for the University of Wisconsin-Stout, going 21-5-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He has yet to see action in the pros.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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