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Ice Chips

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    Former Komets player Kevin Kaminski has been hired to coach the Portland Junior Pirates.
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Komets committed to CHL

The CHL may seem on shaky ground -- Odessa is defecting the league, and several others may do the same -- but the Komets claim they will not be moving this summer.

"We are committed to the league for next season," Komets president Michael Franke said.

"There have been a lot of rumors out there (about teams leaving). I really can't speak specifically to anything. One of the advantages to being in a much larger league, as we all know from years gone by, is there's usually some attrition (you can survive). I'm assuming there will be some attrition in the CHL this offseason. We'll deal with that as it becomes official. It's just one of those things. We have to wait and see how it all shakes out."

Tumultuous offseasons are nothing new for the Komets. Along with five other ex-UHL teams, they formed the IHL in 2007. They lost their biggest geographic rival, Kalamazoo, in 2009, and that led to the IHL's demise last summer. The Komets were among the final eight of the CHL's 18 teams before losing to Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals this year.

If there's good news for the Komets, it's that most of the uncertainty surrounds teams in the CHL's southern region. Odessa (Texas) is heading to the junior-level North American Hockey League, while some other teams are allegedly looking at juniors and the Southern Professional Hockey League.

But one of the CHL's flagship teams, the Colorado Eagles, is reportedly close to moving to the ECHL. And the future of Bloomington (Ill.), one of Fort Wayne's closest rivals, is suspect as the team has yet to reach a lease agreement with U.S. Cellular Coliseum and was recently served with an IRS tax lien.

"We're very hopeful that Bloomington is able to come back," Franke said. "We think it's a solid market. They had a very good team last season, the Coach of the Year in Jason Christie. Selfishly, from the geography of it, we want them. But the building is great and we think the market should be strong, so we hope they come back."

Even in the worst-case scenario -- about six teams leaving the CHL -- Franke said the Komets will be in the CHL. That means they won't join the ECHL. In fact, Franke said he hasn't spoken to ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna in roughly a year.

"Any losses in any league will have a certain effect on anybody," Franke said. "It puts scheduling pressure on everyone else, if it's in the south, west or whatever. ... It'll increase travel for all teams. But in minor-league hockey, travel is part of the game. We tried to fix that problem in the (Midwest-only) IHL for three years, and that travel was fantastic, but unfortunately, the other aspects didn't work as well as we'd hoped.

"In a perfect world, everything would fall under one title, where all the leagues would be together. We've talked about that kind of stuff for years. Eventually I think it will happen and there will be one Double-A league, one Single-A league, one Triple-A league and the NHL, with everybody working together. When that happens, it'll be a good thing."

In the meantime, the Komets are going to give the CHL at least one more season, and they've yet to determine their single-game ticket price, which could help offset the cost of business.

Franke expects the CHL will have a better idea of its membership for next season within two weeks.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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