Komets president Michael Franke is not one to live in the past, no matter how rich the past is and how fervently his hockey franchise trades on it. But the days of yore -- the days when players stuck around for five or six or 15 years and became visible faces of the franchise -- are done now, and he knows it.
The ECHL, as everyone discovered, is a different animal altogether than what the Komets have been used to. Thirty-eight players came and went this season, and none of them ever dreamed of playing for the Fort Wayne Komets. The ECHL, after all, was never intended to be a destination, but only the means to one.
Here's the thing, though: The bond between this city and its hockey team is what's made hockey in this town unique. So the dilemma for Franke is clear.
How to do you sustain that in an era that seems to defy such sustaining?
"I had the president of one of the teams come in here almost three weeks ago, and he told me they'd had three separate teams this year," Franke said this week. "They'd run about 56 players through the team and that it was a very, very difficult season for them and for their fans.
"The same was true here. The association between fans and players was very difficult this year. We're looking forward to that being put behind us. Because in the end, that is probably the most important thing for us here in Fort Wayne."
So how do you preserve that?
"It doesn't necessarily have to be a three-to-five (years), or a Guy Dupuis 15-year type deal," Franke figures. "But just that knowledge that most of the guys that were here at the beginning of the season are going to be there at the end of the season. And maybe they won't be back next year, but we connected with them for this year."
It would help, of course, if the team would be better than 15-19-0 at home, which they are going into tonight.
"I'd almost call the situation embarrassing, for what happened this year especially at home," Franke said. "We don't want it to happen anytime soon again, and we are very driven to make sure it doesn't happen again next year."