Broadcaster Bob Chase saw more games between the Komets and Toledo at the old Toledo Sports Arena than anyone.
"The stories I could tell you from those days, these are things that people wouldn't believe nowadays," said Chase, who is in his 60th season calling games on WOWO.
So heated was the rivalry, which lasted from 1952 to 1986, that it wasn't just contained to the ice. Making the trip to the Toledo Sports Arena could be dangerous for the staff and even fans.
"Several times, I had to physically fight my way out of the building," Chase said. "One night, it was dime beer night … and I came down from the press box and you had so much heavy gear in those days. Here I am, I've got these big boxes and these guys are screaming at me. One guy (punched me) and got a little piece of me. I got angry, dropped everything and I grabbed him and put him up on the wall before the ushers came rushing in."
Years later, the teenager who assaulted Chase apologized.
Chris Kotsopoulos, a defenseman withToledo in 1978-79, never did.
His parents had apparently relayed a message to him that Chase was knocking him on the air that season.
"I'm in the press box and I looked down and he's giving me the finger and shaking his fist at me while the game is going on," Chase said. "I had him pretty well distracted and he was willing to take time out from the game to give me the finger. It was unbelievable."
Of course, the games between the Komets and various Toledo teams – the Mercurys, Blades, Hornets and Goaldiggers – were magnificent, particularly in the 1980s, at least if you like the rough stuff.
"It was 'Slap Shot' hockey, but it was a reality," said Chase, who will call the Komets' first game in Toledo since 1985 on Friday, though it will be at the Huntington Center, not at the razed Toledo Sports Arena.
Fort Wayne and Toledo met in two IHL finals, with Toledo winning in 1964 and 1967. And there were so many Toledo people that became villains to Fort Wayne fans – namely coach Ted Garvin, who coached there from 1974 to 1979 and won two championships, and Paul Tantardini, who scored as many as 29 goals and had as many as 363 penalty minutes in a season.
Of course,Toledo had many prolific players, such as William "Chick" Chalmers, Len Fontaine and Greg Jablonski, some of the best scorers in the history of the original IHL.
Mike Eruzione played two seasons in Toledo before he was an Olympic hero. Chris McSorley had 545 penalty minutes in 1985-86.
Sometimes what happened off the ice was more interesting though. There are stories of fans reaching over the boards to hit players, beer regularly being spilled on the Komets, and a night in which the crowd was so incensed it disassembled the rink.
"One night, we were walking out of the locker room and through the crowd in this hallway," Chase said. "This guy is standing in the crowd with a German Kaiser hat with a spear on the top, and he takes a swat at (former player and coach) Robbie Laird. Robbie had his bag over his shoulder. He slipped the bag off his shoulder, threw a haymaker, cold-cocked this guy, and kept on walking and no one every bothered him for doing it."
It certainly won't be anything like that Friday, when the Komets take on the Walleye. And some are glad for that – like Komets president Michael Franke, who filled in on one of the rare nights Chase missed a game at Toledo.
"Some woman comes up to me (in 1984-85) and hits me on the shoulder. She looks at me and says, 'Are you the Komets' broadcaster tonight? Are you the one who was on WOWO last night in Saginaw?' I said, 'Yes, I was maam.'
"She looks at me and says, 'I want to tell you something, you ain't no Bob Chase.' And then she spits on my shoe. On my shoe! … It was definitely a scary situation for a 24-year-old kid at the Toledo Sports Arena."