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Ice Chips

  • A possible new Komet
    No official word yet, but I'm hearing that the Komets may be completing a deal with Thomas Frazee, who had 24 goals and 47 points in 60 games last season with Quad City of the CHL.
  • Komets affiliate with Avs, Lake Erie
    The Komets have aligned with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and their American Hockey League team, the Lake Erie Monsters.
  • This is sad news
    Former Komets star Joe Kastelic, who once owned the record for most goals scored in the IHL, died Wednesday at 81. He skated for the Komets from 1953 to 1957 and then again in 1960-61.
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A look at the leagues

As fans of the Komets, and Fort Wayne's players, await news on what league their team will be playing in next season, management does not yet have any answers.

"There's nothing new today," Komets president Michael Franke said, "but I'm hoping by the end or the middle of this week, we'll have some (movement). We're just continuing the process."

That process includes salvaging the IHL, in which the Komets recently won their third straight playoff championship. If the IHL doesn't find new ownership for the Flint Generals, or find an expansion team to fill the sixth spot, the team will try to join either the ECHL or the Central Hockey League.

Here's a look at the Komets' prospective leagues:

International Hockey League

Overview: Reincarnated in 2007, it aims to be a Midwest bus league that keeps operational and travel costs down. The IHL promotes its physical brand of hockey, and aims to have a mix of young prospects and experienced veterans. The Komets have won all three playoff championships and two regular-season titles.

Teams: Six, though Flint's future is in doubt.

Schedule: Going from 76 to 70 games

Salary cap: $13,000 per week

Roster size: 20, with 19-player lineups

Veteran rules: Maximum of eight can play. A vet began season with 300 or more games.

Rookie rules: Minimum of four must play, and a rookie played in 60 or fewer games.

Why it would be good for Komets: The franchise, and its fans, love winning championships and the IHL has proved fertile ground for them. Staying in the IHL would preserve at least one bitter rivalry – with Port Huron – and allow fans to go to road games in places in close proximity. This is the most cost-effective league for ownership.

Why it would be bad for Komets: The IHL always seems on shaky ground financially – see ownership changes in Flint, Dayton, Bloomington – and the losses of Kalamazoo and Muskegon have robbed Fort Wayne of its two biggest rivals. Some fans are tiring of seeing the same opponents over and over.

ECHL

Overview: Formerly the East Coast Hockey League, it changed its name to "ECHL" in 2003 to maintain its brand but reflect its presence as a national entity. Its geography spans from Estero, Fla., to Anchorage, Alaska, and it is regarded as the premier 'AA' level league because of its strong affiliations with the NHL and American Hockey League.

Teams: 20 last season

Schedule: 72 games

Salary cap: $11,800 per week

Roster size: 20, with 18-player lineups

Veteran rules: Maximum of four can be played. A vet began the season with at least 260 games.

Rookie rules: A rookie began the season with fewer than 25 games. There is no minimum on how many must be played.

Why it would be good for Komets: With strong ties to the NHL, the Komets would see more legitimate NHL prospects than they have perhaps ever. There would be an infusion of young, ambitious players, and there would be faster skating. Fans wouldn't be watching the same five opponents all the time, and geographical rivalries with Kalamazoo, Toledo and Cincinnati would be reincarnated.

Why it would be bad for Komets: The team would be unable to keep popular, older players from the current team, who don't fit the ECHL mold. A successful ECHL team has its players called up very frequently, and fans may not like seeing their stars leave midseason. Travel and operational costs will be higher than in the IHL, making things harder on ownership, and fans might feel the pinch in ticket prices.

Central Hockey League

Overview: Heading into its 19th season, the CHL encompasses teams as far south as Hidalgo, Texas, and as far north as Rapid City, S.D. In 2001, the Central and Western Professional Hockey leagues merged. With a caliber of play much like the IHL, the CHL has also seen its share of off-ice soap operas, much of it increasing after the league unionized in 2008.

Teams: 16 last season, though two have already bowed out

Schedule: 64 games

Salary cap: $10,450

Roster size: 19, with 18-player lineups

Veteran rules: Maximum of four can be played. A vet began season with at least 301 games.

Rookie rules: Need four "developmental players" with fewer than 120 games played.

Why it would be good for Komets: The Komets are accustomed to putting together a winner in this type of league, and since they'd be able to keep their nucleus of players such as Colin Chaulk, P.C. Drouin and Guy Dupuis, they would be competitive again. For those sick of seeing the same opponents, this would be a welcome change.

Why it would be bad for Komets: This could affect ownership's bottom line in a number of ways: Travel costs would go up, even if an entire IHL division is brought in; and there would be fewer games played at home to balance that out. There would be a lack of familiarity with many opposing teams.

My best guess

Personally, I think it's about 60 percent the Komets wind up in the IHL again. I'll say 30 percent they're in the ECHL. That leaves 10 percent chance they're in the CHL.

I have a feeling there will be some big surprise through the course of this. I don't know whether maybe some team would leave the ECHL or CHL and join the IHL ranks, or whether maybe a bunch of the IHL teams will move to another league.

I just have a hunch something weird is going on here. I really started getting that feeling when it became clear last week that the Frankes had something other than saving Flint in their hopper.

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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