FORT WAYNE – You’ll hear plenty of PrairieThunder again this hockey season in Memorial Coliseum.
The flip side is, you’ll also see a Sundog or two, a Mudbug, an Eagle and whatever a RiverKing is.
The Central Hockey League, fortified with four former IHL clubs, unveiled its 2010-11 schedule Friday, and it begins with a bang for the Turner Cup champion Fort Wayne Komets: a season-opening showdown against the CHL’s Miron Cup champs, the Rapid City Rush.
That one will have a 7:30 p.m. faceoff Oct. 16 and opens a 66-game schedule that will include a 1,819-mile road trip the second weekend of the season to Arizona, a 49th Thanksgiving night home date and 54th New Year’s Eve home date (both against Quad City) and a New Year’s Day game at Dayton.
In addition to Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the Komets secured 26 weekend dates – 12 on Friday, nine on Saturday and five on Sunday – out of 36 home games, plus home games Dec. 22, 27 and 29 during the holidays.
The Komets’ busiest month is February, when they play 14 games. Home-game times will remain the same as last year, with Friday games at 8 p.m. and all games except Sundays, a 5 p.m. faceoff, starting at 7:30.
With the 30 weekend and holiday games, including three games during the Christmas and New Year period when the kids are home from school, we’re real happy with it, Komets president Michael Franke said. I don’t think you can complain about that.
There will also be at least some remedy to one of the fans’ major complaints in the last two years – seeing the same teams over and over.
There will be home games against new faces Arizona, Bossier-Shreveport (La.), Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Wichita (Kan.) and Rapid City (S.D.). But none of the Texas teams – Laredo, Allen, Texas, Rio Grande Valley and Odessa – will appear on Coliseum ice in the regular season. Neither will Tulsa.
Of the 36 home games, 25 will be against former IHL standbys Dayton (seven times), Quad City (six) and Bloomington (five), plus newcomer Evansville (seven).
From the fans’ perspective, I think it will create a nice variety, Franke said. In all honesty, that’s an important issue, but the cost efficiencies are more of an important issue than that particular scenario.
That said, the Komets will make significant road trips – the Arizona trip, a Wichita-Missouri-Quad City swing in December, a Bossier/Shreveport-Fort Worth trip in January and, finally, a Colorado-Rapid City trip in March.
That will probably be our biggest travel challenge of the season, because there’s no easy way to get from Colorado to Rapid City, Franke said. But they were looking for some travel volunteers, and we felt it was imperative for us in Fort Wayne to step up and take on a little travel.
We kind of said, OK, you know what, this is going to be a little more difficult, but if a little more travel for us is a positive thing to help the schedule even out, we’ll do it.’