FORT WAYNE – Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock wasn’t just flirting with the idea of leaving the Fort Wayne Komets to play hockey in Toledo.
He was serious considering it.
He gushed about going on a visit to the city, meeting with the coach of the ECHL’s Walleye franchise, seeing the new rink, checking out the apartments of where the players live. He’d be only about two hours away from home, another nice perk. And Schrock had a friend from college who played with Toledo and then got called up to the AHL last year, proving a guy can shed the Division III label, as Schrock called it, and still have success.
So Schrock figured, If he could do it, why can’t I?
But then he thought about how rewarding it has been the last two seasons to play for the Komets, a team he’s rooted for since he was 6.
And, ultimately, Schrock went with his heart: He’ll be in uniform with his favorite team for at least one more season after signing a contract Thursday.
Once I finally achieved this goal I’ve had for many years, it would be hard to leave here, Schrock said. One of my mentors has told me, The grass sometimes looks greener on the other side, but you still have to mow the lawn.’ When you have a good thing going, you just keep it. I love the fans here. I love my teammates. It’s just a good fit for me, so that’s why I decided to stay.
Schrock, 26, had 35 goals and 56 points in two years with the Komets, and he’s accumulated 310 penalty minutes. He was the team’s rookie of the year in 2009-10 and has been the team’s Mr. Hustle award-winner in both seasons.
No wonder general manager David Franke deemed it very important to keep Schrock in Fort Wayne.
Kaleigh is a big part of the hockey club. He brings the whole package, Franke said. He can skate. He can hit. He can score, and he can fight. He’s a local kid, grew up watching the Komets. He bleeds orange and black. He’s a Komet player. He’s exactly what we like to have in a player, a player who can play physical and cares, a good teammate, a leader.
There was no way I was going to let him get away to Toledo.
Franke knows Schrock could be the franchise’s captain of the future, a mantle held firmly still by Colin Chaulk. Schrock is less willing to talk about his leadership prowess and capabilities, saying he’s just happy to be able to learn from Chaulk and some of the club’s veterans in the last two years.
But Schrock could see being in Fort Wayne for a while.
I could see myself being in Fort Wayne the remainder of my career, he said. I love playing here.
And Schrock likes the way the roster is taking shape so far, including re-signing defenseman Craig Cescon and newcomer Chris Auger on Thursday.
With Schrock, Cescon and Auger, the Komets bring a physical element to the ice, Franke said. Cescon led the Komets with 174 penalty minutes last season, his first with the club.
Craig plays a very physical game, Franke said. He doesn’t mind dropping the gloves. His style of game is to be physical, agitate, take guys out of the play and stick up for his teammates. He does a very good job of that. When you look at Kaleigh and Craig, here are two physical-type players who bring a lot to the table.
Chris Auger, he’s got a physical side to him, too. He’s an up-tempo type player, and he’s got good skill.