If the IHL and Central Hockey League join forces – either through a full-on merger or just by playing some amount of interleague games – fans of the Komets are likely to see a product very similar to what they did last season.
"Yeah, I think it's pretty much the same," said center Leo Thomas, who led the Komets with 33 goals last season.
Thomas skated for the CHL's Laredo Bucks in 2006-07, and has spent the last three seasons in the IHL.
But the six-team IHL is on shaky financial ground and expected to affiliate with the 13-team CHL this week, though specifics haven't yet emerged on whether all the IHL's franchises will survive the move, if there will be expansion teams and how it will all come together.
The Komets have proved themselves very successful, winning three straight postseason championships and 2 of 3 regular-season titles, and an agreement with the CHL would allow them to field a similar type of lineup to what they're accustomed.
Some of the Komets' popular older players, such as Colin Chaulk, P.C. Drouin, Guy Dupuis and Thomas, might still have jobs with the Komets in an IHL-CHL collective, something that would have been less likely had the team moved to the NHL-affiliated ECHL.
"There are a little bit different rules with the veterans," Thomas said, alluding to the CHL's use of four veteran players, compared to eight by the IHL. "So it's a little younger in the Central League; you see younger guys. But on the ice, it's pretty much the same. You would presumably see more teams, and get to see more guys and what they can do, but the level of the play is pretty much the same."
Former Komets player/assistant coach Bruce Ramsay agreed. He coached Muskegon of the IHL from 2007 to 2009 and led Tulsa of the CHL last season.
"Good players in the IHL will be good players in the CHL. Good players in the CHL will be good players in the IHL. It's all AA-level hockey. There are good teams in both leagues and it's all comparable," said Ramsay, who added the CHL is "run very, very professionally."
There is one noticeable difference in the CHL, Ramsay said, and that's the speed of the game.
"It's very fast. Speed is a real strength," Ramsay said of the CHL, which tries to enforce the NHL's standard of officiating more than does the IHL. "Toughness doesn't come into play as much as it did in the IHL. There is a lot of hitting in that league. It's just the way they call it. In the CHL, they open it up for speed and you have to adapt, whereas in the IHL there's a little more clutching and grabbing."
Thomas agreed with that assessment, and he said the Komets' players might get a kick out of visiting CHL cities, even if trips out of the current IHL territory don't come until the postseason.
"When I moved to Laredo, (Texas), I was five minutes from the border," Thomas said. "I went to the desert, and I traveled to Colorado. I enjoyed it. I had a good year and we lost in the Finals. The trips would be long, but I think the guys would love to get away for a two-week trip."