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Komets

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K’s road trips include Coliseum

3 ‘home’ games for Evansville

The Komets take pride in the atmosphere they’ve created at Memorial Coliseum.

Last season’s average attendance of 7,825 was a franchise record, the fourth highest in minor-league hockey for 2009-10 and the highest at the AA level.

And they won 29 of 38 games at the Coliseum.

Heading into their first season in the Central Hockey League, though, the Komets are helping to redefine the phrase “home-ice advantage.”

Unlike the rest of the league, the Komets will get to play 36 of their 66 games on home ice, thanks to an agreement they worked out with the expansion Evansville Icemen.

As the Icemen wait for a state-of-the-art arena to be built in downtown Evansville, set to open next year, they will skate their home games at 1,600-seat Swonder Arena. That is akin to playing games at McMillen Ice Arena, and it will be the smallest venue in the CHL.

Most of the Icemen’s home games, anyway.

In an effort to make more money, the Icemen will play three of their “home” games against the Komets at the Coliseum. An undisclosed amount of the ticket sales – but not all of it – will go to the Icemen.

The Coliseum will retain its usual share of the profits – all of the parking and concessions.

Every other CHL team will play 33 games at home and 33 on the road. The Komets, though, will face less travel, more profits and an advantage as 18 teams vie for positioning and 16 playoff spots.

“Does it create an imbalance? I don’t know,” Komets president Michael Franke said. “Some people would say so. But the three games we’re doing are basically Evansville home games, even though they don’t appear that way on the schedule. …

“We do get the home-ice advantage in a sense, but it was a financial consideration that we wanted to bring to the Evansville people to show our good faith in regard to them coming into the league. We thought it was very, very important.”

But the city of Evansville has made no commitment to the CHL for use of the new arena. City officials are also exploring options with the ECHL and junior-level United States Hockey League.

CHL commissioner Duane Lewis said that the scheduling imbalance also helps the Komets satisfy their lease with the Coliseum, worked out when they played in the IHL, which had a longer season. In fact, all four IHL teams that moved to the CHL – Fort Wayne, Bloomington, Quad City and Dayton – had similar concerns, Lewis said.

“We went through a lot of issues in regards to the numbers of games, based on the differences with the leagues,” Lewis said. “There was an issue with the leases of teams having a number of games that had to be fulfilled. In this case, Evansville was willing to move some games.

“We actually thought this would happen more often, there were a lot of scenarios looked at, but this was the only one that needed to be done.”

Lewis admitted the league will catch some flak depending on what happens. For example, if the Komets squeak into the playoffs by one point, the team that barely missed will have a gripe.

“This is not ideal, but we did what we had to do to make the two leagues come together smoothly,” Lewis said.

In the three Evansville “home games” at the Coliseum, the Icemen will enjoy the advantages afforded to the home team, such as being able to make the last line change before faceoffs.

But crowd support will be another thing.

“It probably does give us an advantage,” Komets general manager David Franke said, “but it was something we needed to do for the Evansville franchise as they start this year in their small building before moving into their new building next year.”

And Michael Franke couldn’t help but chuckle a bit when asked about that advantage.

“I guess your question (of fairness) is better asked to the other CHL teams, but we don’t have any problems with this,” he said.

jcohn@jg.net

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