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Owner who moved K’s to Albany dies


David Welker, whose tenure as owner of the Komets was marked by his decision to move the team to Albany, N.Y., died Sunday at 73.

The announcement came from his son, Billy, equipment manager with the CHL team in Bossier-Shreveport (La.), where David Welker had been living and battling Alzheimer’s.

David Welker owned the Komets for three years when, in the summer of 1990, he moved them to Albany, N.Y. The Komets had played continuously in Fort Wayne for 38 years when the controversial decision was made. But less than a month later, the Franke family bought the Flint Spirits franchise, along with the Komets’ name and logo, and professional hockey remains in Fort Wayne under their guidance to this day.

As for the Albany Choppers, they folded by Christmas.

“One thing I’ll say about my dad is he’s a very, very nice man,” Billy Welker said in March. “I don’t think people really understood how sick he was. He had issues even back then, and he made some bad mistakes.”

Under Welker’s guidance, radio broadcaster Bob Chase served as general manager for a time, current general manager David Franke was the sales and marketing director and Al Sims got his start as an assistant and then head coach. Sims has guided the Komets to four championships, including the last three years in the IHL.

“David’s passing was a shock to all of us,” David Franke said. “(Welker) kept hockey going in Fort Wayne during a time of difficulty for the organization. David’s heart was in the right place when he owned the Komets. Unfortunately, his exit to Albany, N.Y., was ill fated. … Billy can be proud of the caring help he gave his dad until his father’s death.”

Billy Welker said in an email that services are tentatively set for Roanoke Funeral Chapel, 240 Crestwood Drive. The viewing will be from 4 to 8 p.m. April 20, and the funeral will be at 10 a.m. April 21, with viewing an hour before.