FORT WAYNE – Broadcaster Bob Chase saw more Komets games at the old Toledo Sports Arena than anyone.
The stories I could tell you from those days, these are things that people wouldnt believe nowadays, said Chase, who is in his 60th season calling games on WOWO.
So heated was the rivalry, which lasted from 1952 to December 1985, that it wasnt just contained to the ice.
Several times, I had to physically fight my way out of the building, Chase said. One night, it was dime beer night. 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 with Toledo in 1978-79, never did.
His parents had apparently relayed a message to him that Chase was knocking him on the air that season.
Im in the press box, and I looked down and hes giving me the finger and shaking his fist at me while the game is going on, Chase said. 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 tonight, 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 who became villains to Fort Wayne fans – namely coach Ted Garvin and Paul Tantardini, who scored as many as 29 goals and had as many as 363 penalty minutes in a season.
Williams Chick Chalmers, Len Fontaine and Greg Jablonski were some of the best scorers in IHL history. 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. Fans reached over the boards to hit players and there was a night an incensed crowd disassembled the rink, at least thats how the Komets tell it.
One night, we were walking out of the locker room and 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, Chase said. 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 ever bothered him for doing it.
It certainly wont be anything like that tonight, when the Komets take on the Walleye.
Komets president Michael Franke, who filled in on one of the rare nights Chase missed a game, is happy for that.
Some woman comes up to me (in 1984-85) and hits me on the shoulder, Franke said. 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 aint 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.