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Ice Chips

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    Komets forward Mike Embach had an interesting offseason job and is now expected to be a top point producer for Fort Wayne.
  • K's looking to improve
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    Check out today's story on the Komets, who are off to a 2-0-0 start this season. We explore how and why the captain, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, has looked so good, so far this season.
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An amazing letter

I got the following letter from Komets fan Bruce Chwalek, and he gave me permission to reprint it.

It's quite long, but I think you will really enjoy it. It speaks to the influence Bob Chase and the Komets have had on hockey ...

Thanks for providing the link for the video of Bob Chase, the Fort Wayne Komets' broadcaster, receiving the prestigious Lester Patrick award last evening at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies in Dallas.

When I heard that Steve Levy, ESPN anchor, was going to be the Master of Ceremonies, I wondered how I could get Steve a message about how Bob Chase influenced my life relating to hockey as he has so many thousands.

I grew up in the 50's and 60's in Oswego, NY, home of SUNY college at Oswego, where Steve Levy graduated in 1987. Linda Cohn, another ESPN anchor, also graduated from my hometown college in 1981, where she played goalie for the woman's college ice hockey team. It was around 1964 when I was a young teenager that one night I tuned in the radio and a voice caught my attention on a broadcast that was coming in so loud and clear (because WOWO was a 50,000 watt clear channel powerhouse). When he said, 'This is Bob Chase, Komet hockey on WOWO Fort Wayne,' he may as well said he was from another country. I thought where on earth is Fort Wayne? Never heard of such a place. And Indiana?

Buffalo was the edge of the known universe to me at that young age. I couldn't believe I was receiving a station so clear from so far away. And he was broadcasting hockey? I had heard of the NHL as I would see the scores on the Syracuse TV evening sports report but that was about it. Because of his clear, exciting play-by-play, I would tune in occasionally and Komet players like Merv Dubchak, Len Thornson and Norm Waslawski became familiar names to me. After 60 years, we are still amazed at how great his voice is.

Bob piqued an interest in me for hockey and I wanted to learn more about the sport. Once again, as with my discovery of Bob Chase and Komet hockey, I just happened onto a snowy broadcast of "Hockey Night in Canada" one Saturday evening coming out of CKWS TV in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, via our attic antenna (cable wasn't around yet). Oswego, N.Y., is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario and Kingston is about 55 miles north on the other side of the Lake which meant no land interference for the signal. After witnessing an actual game on TV, I better understood why Bob Chase was that excited when calling the games. That led to the local neighborhood kids coming over to my house on Saturday nights to watch Hockey Night in Canada which led to pond and street hockey games and regular attendance at the SUNY Oswego college hockey games which I believe started in 1964.

For years the college team played in the ice cold tundra like environment known as Romney Field House but now have a state of the art Campus Center Ice Arena with a press box that was donated by Steve Levy. After my friend across the street got his driver's license and car we packed into it for the 2½ hour trip to Buffalo to see our first live NHL game! My love of the game was so great I made the woeful ignorant mistake of trying out for the University of Lowell (MA) college ice hockey team in 1970. Possessing only street and pond hockey experience it was equivalent to someone trying out for the University of Notre Dame football team having never played football in High School.

It's funny when you look back at the road life takes you down because many times you end up where you never envisioned. In 1964, I wondered where the strange City of Fort Wayne was and in 1970 I was attending college just north of there in Angola. I graduated in 1972 from Tri-State (now Trine) with a degree in Civil Engineering, got married in 1979 in Fort Wayne, left in 1986 and with both of us now retired we joyously returned in April 2012.

I've been a lifelong Fort Wayne Komet and Chicago Blackhawks fan and hockey is my favorite sport. I have Bob Chase to thank for the part he played in introducing me to hockey.

Back in October 1995 my wife and I were vacationing in Mt. Orford, Quebec, known as the Eastern Townships, which is about 60 miles east of Montreal. One evening we drove from our condo down to the local deppaneur (French for convenience store) and I turned on the car radio as I typically do. I went through the dial picking up mostly French speaking stations when all of a sudden there was that familiar, booming voice - "On WOWO, Komet hockey!"

Over the years as we lived in Michigan, Northern Virginia and Ohio and whenever we traveled across the US and Canada - if the Komets were playing and by chance we could get WOWO we would tune in to listen to Bob Chase.

I searched the ESPN website under contacts to see if Steve Levy had an email address posted which he didn't. I am on Facebook but wasn't on Twitter as I saw no need but found that I could reach him through that social media. So I hurriedly signed up for a Twitter account late Sunday and made my first tweet to Steve Levy, ESPN: "Grew up in Oswego, N.Y., in the 60's and tuned into Bob Chase, Komet Hockey on WOWO and thanks to him I'm a lifelong hockey fan."

As my wife and I were watching the video replay of the US Hockey Hall of Fame awards ceremony this morning Steve Levy turned to Bob Chase in the ceremony and basically said is a true story Bob, I got a tweet last night sent personally to me from a gentleman in central New York who grew up in the 60's and he tuned into Bob Chase, Komet Hockey on WOWO and thanks to him I'm a lifelong hockey fan. Steve incorrectly mentioned that he received the tweet from a gentleman from Central N.Y. when I now live in Ft. Wayne. Steve then mentioned that about an hour earlier he had received a similar tweet from his uncle in New York. Bob sure has been one of hockey's finest ambassadors.

I have several hockey autographs from NHL players and Len Thornson from the old IHL but if I had one of Bob Chase it would probably mean more. The following illustrate some of the outstanding character traits Bob has that provide a great example for all whether hockey fan or not.

· Humility - he thanked God for the award

· Loyalty to the Komet organization and City of Fort Wayne - foregoing the opportunities he had to broadcast for the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings in the NHL

· Longevity of 60 years of broadcasting now at the age of 86 - you talk about stick-to-itiveness

· Requesting the name of Bob Chase-Wallenstein to go on the Lester Patrick trophy in order to honor his late parents. That was a neat story of when he was starting out and told he needed to change his Wallenstein name to something easier for broadcasting that he chose his wife's maiden name of Chase.

Some years ago, when I was employed by the City of Fairborn, Ohio, as their Civil Engineer, a Warren Back came into my office. At the time he was a marketing agent for Woolpert, a large civil engineering firm headquartered in Dayton and was seeking work for his company. In the course of our conversation I mentioned Fort Wayne and then hockey and he told me that he was a player/coach for the Dayton Gems in the 60's in the IHL. You guessed it - the discussion quickly turned to Bob Chase. Warren was from Gull Lake, Saskatchewan (about 80 miles north of the Montana border) and many people back home could follow him on WOWO radio whenever the Komets played Dayton. Warren said Bob Chase was a household name in Saskatchewan.

We can be so proud to say Bob Chase calls Fort Wayne his home! I hope the City acknowledges in a big way his receiving the Lester Patrick award and for his 60th year broadcasting the Komets.

Justin, would you be able to forward this to Bob Chase? Thanks. Keep up the good work in your Komets Ice Chips blog as I enjoy reading it.

Sincerely,

Bruce Chwalek

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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