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 teams history, winning league awards as best defensive forward in 2007 and 2008 and the Turner Cup Playoffs MVP 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 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 Hukalos plan to retire.
I said, Hey, Chief (former coach Greg Puhalski) brought you in and look what youve done. Youve 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 didnt make him an offer but Im glad hell be here in town after his playing days.
Hukalo, 31, couldnt be reached for comment.
In 335 regular-season games, he tallied 88 goals and 214 points, battling through major injuries, including some to his shoulder. 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 wasnt a problem on or off the ice. Since weve owned the franchise, it was probably one of the best trades weve made because he was a valuable member. Kalamazoo would always want to know if they could acquire him back in a trade. Hes 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 suffered to the visitors locker room Dec. 21, 2008.
As part of the settlement, the Wings make no admission or liability and intend merely (to) avoid any further litigation and to buy their peace, according to court documents.
The Coliseum alleged damages to a shower head, toilet seat, flooring and wall coverings and other property had been caused by a torch used by hockey teams for the manipulation of sticks and other equipment.
On Dec. 21, the Coliseum had gone to some lengths to help the Wings after the brakes on their bus froze. The bus was allowed to be parked inside the Expo Center so it could thaw. Kalamazoo, which will play in the ECHL next season, then defeated the Komets 2-1.
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.