He knows what time it is, that guy up there in Section 223. Didnt he set the alarm for April, way back in October?
Now the things howling at him and hes killing it with his fist and hes up, hes ready, he is stoked, you know, cause its Playoff Time. Which translates, in this humble neck of the hockey woods, to Komet Time.
And so hes digging out that raggedy Colin Chaulk jersey (signed, natch), and hes taking his seat just like he has since Robbie Irons was still that green kid in goal, and he wonders, briefly, if any of the boys down there know how much this means to guys like him.
He wonders whether the view from 223 has ever been their view, or if, in these last two years when it ended with them bench-pressing the Turner Cup, they ever realized that while they were hoisting it, so was he.
Beats me. Lemme ask this guy over here.
Its one of those things where its a lifetime dream, Brandon Warner says.
And then he smiles and adds that it wasnt all that long ago he was the guy up in 223, cheering for some of the guys he now plays alongside – Guy Dupuis, Konstantin Shafranov – and other guys, the Colin Chins and Steve Fletchers.
Now all these years later, hes been the one on the ice at the end twice, hoisting the Cup while 223 Guy banged his mitts together up there in Warners old hangout.
Thats not just special. Thats special on steroids.
Just to get that chance to come back to Fort Wayne after playing about six years of hockey on the road – away from my family, away from my hometown, away from everything that I ever knew – to finally come back and get a chance to play for a championship in front of my hometown, my family, its a dream come true, says Warner, a Huntertown native and Carroll grad.
And now he gets another shot at it, beginning tonight, and this time he wont be alone.
This time hes got another 223 guy out there with him, so to speak, another kid who grew up here and went to Komets games and who doesnt mind telling you that, where Brandon Warner is concerned, hes jealous as hell.
Yeah, I was a bit green when I got to hear about him lifting the Cup and being the hometown guy, says Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, rookie forward. Weve talked about it a lot – actually Warner has been one of my guys Ive gone to a lot, because Im kind of walking in his path – and I know its something he cherishes. I want to do it as well.
Hes just like I am, ready for another win, Warner says.
Schrock is, in fact, chomping at the bit, to get his hands on the Cup, which is in keeping with the way he approaches the game. A high-energy forward with offensive skills and a positive genius for annoyance, Schrock was the sixth-leading goal scorer on the team this season with 20, and had 31 points and 168 penalty minutes in 76 games.
Like Warner, who won an NCAA title at Michigan State, hes won before, helping Neumann College to the NCAA Division III title last spring. And, like Warner, hes not about to stop winning.
I think its time for us to really take it to the next level, he says.
Its a sentiment 223 Guy can appreciate, not to mention everyone who ever survived a Walking Taco and the un-ticketed mugging of this Komets favorite or that. This is, after all, Titletown Economy Class. Winning is not just the goal; its the expectation.
I think thats something about us growing up in Fort Wayne, Warner says. Weve kind of grown up with that we-dont-accept-losing mentality. So I think the both of us are kind of expecting a championship again this year, and I think anything short of that is going to be a failure on our side of it.
223 Guy couldnt agree more.