When the Komets traded Kevin Kotyluk to the Kalamazoo Wings for David Hukalo on Nov. 16, 2004, few could have envisioned the effect it would have for Fort Wayne.
Hukalo morphed into one of the finer players in the team's history, winning league-wide awards as best defensive forward in 2007 and 2008, and the Turner Cup Playoffs MVP trophy in 2009.
But as the Komets move into the IHL-Central Hockey League coalition next season, they will have fewer spots for veteran players, and they have decided not to offer Hukalo a contract.
"I told him we would not have a contract offer for him, would not be protecting him and he would be a free agent. He understood everything," said Komets general manager David Franke, who confirmed Hukalo's plan to retire.
"I said, 'Hey, Chief (former coach Greg Puhalski) brought you in and look what you've done. You've won three championships here.' He said, 'I met my wife here, bought my first home here and had two kids.' I figured he would retire after we didn't make him an offer…but I'm glad he'll be here in town after his playing days."
Hukalo, 31, couldn't be reached for comment.
In 335 regular-season games, he tallied 88 goals and 214 points, battling through some debilitating shoulder injuries. In the postseason, he had 12 goals and 33 points in 49 games.
"David was a valuable member of our hockey club," Franke said. "He brought a lot to the table, was a good penalty-killer, played hard and wasn't a problem on or off the ice. Since we've owned the franchise, it was probably one of the best trades we made because he was a valuable member.
"Kalamazoo would always want to know if they could acquire him back in a trade. He's been a good player, a good person, played through pain. He kept playing when a lot of guys would have sat on the sidelines and rested themselves."
In other news, the Allen County commissioners unanimously approved a settlement under which the Wings will pay Memorial Coliseum $5,100 of the $9,450 in damages sustained in the visitors' locker room Dec. 21, 2008.
As part of the settlement, the Wings made no admission or liability and "intend merely…to avoid further litigation and to buy their peace."
The Coliseum alleged damages to a showerhead, toilet seat, flooring and wall coverings, and other property had been caused by a torch -- the kind used by hockey teams for the manipulation of sticks and other equipment.
On the night of Dec. 21, the Coliseum had gone to some lengths to help the Wings. After the brakes on their bus froze, they were allowed to park inside the Expo Center so the brakes could thaw. Kalamazoo then defeated the Komets 2-1.
After that season, the Wings left the IHL for the ECHL.
Most of the money received from the settlement will go to the Komets, who had a portion of their game-night profits deducted by the Coliseum to cover repairs.