Jack Loser, who drove the Komets' bus for almost 40 years, died Monday at 82. He was an important figure to the team behind the scenes.
The following is a story our Greg Jones did on Loser back in 2001. ...
Entrepreneur Jack Loser thought the gig would probably be pretty good.
In 1960, Loser and his brother Jim were just a few years into owning the busing company they had purchased from their father.
In 1960, while still working out of Warsaw, the brothers got the contract to bus a fledgling minor-league hockey team that wasn't even a decade into its existence.
And it kind of stuck with Jack Loser.
That fledgling hockey team, the Fort Wayne Komets, is celebrating 50 years on the ice, and their bus driver looks back on his almost 40 years of driving the team all around the Midwest and Canada.
Jack, 67, drove the Komets from that 1960-61 season until retiring from the busing industry in 1999, when the Komets left the International Hockey League. Along the way, Jack figures he drove 150,000 miles and 40 games a season and almost 2 1/2 million miles all told.
"I have probably driven more miles with a hockey team than any other driver," Jack said from the living room of his home just north of Dupont Road.
Hard to prove. But even harder to doubt.
Through all kinds of weather, including snow up to the headlights at times, Jack says the Komets never missed a game because a failure on his part.
"Might have been late to a few, though," he admitted.
The Losers' company started as Indiana Motor Bus and eventually moved its offices to Fort Wayne in 1985 and switched names to Summit Coaches.
"It was our leading account, so we handled it personally," Jack said.
Two years ago, the Losers sold the company to Jim's stepdaughter. The company no longer drives the Komets.
Jack has driven almost everywhere imaginable, including small Michigan towns like Saginaw, Flint and Muskegon, Ohio cities like Toledo and Columbus, and even to Canada.
In the latter years of Jack's career, as well as the Komets' days in the IHL, he also did plenty of trips back and forth from the airport.
"That is one reason they had to get out of the league," Jack says of the air travel to places like Las Vegas and Orlando. "It was the best when it was a bus league."
And as expected, Jack has stories. Too numerous to tell them all, at least not in one article.
But among the highlights are the time ...:
* Defensemen Nellie Bulloch was left behind in a family grocery store in the middle of nowhere and tried to catch the bus by asking a stranger in an old Ford for a ride. "From then on, whenever we stopped, everybody made sure (Bulloch) was on the bus when we left."
* Komets radio announcer Bob Chase had to drive the bus because Jack had to use the bathroom in the back of the bus. "The guys looked up from their card game and said, 'Who's driving the bus?'"
* Jack drove over a hill on U.S. 24 coming back from Peoria, Ill., and saw six deer in the middle of the road. He quickly hit the brakes to stop the bus, the deer scattered and so did the coaches, players and cards inside the bus. "I told them it was the first honest shuffle in the card game in years."
* Colin Chin fell asleep on the bus and didn't wake up until the equipment and players had been unloaded at Cleveland and the bus was in the parking lot. "He figured out how to get out of the bus, but he was late getting to the dressing room."
* The players mooned a trucker who had cut Jack off as the bus was on a highway on-ramp. "(The driver) did one of those double-takes as 20 bare butts passed him on the road."
The memories weren't always pleasant ones. Jack remembers the time he was on the bus heading to Muskegon when the word came over the radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. The team finished the trip and played the game.
"Back then, they didn't do things like they do now," Jack said.
"Life goes on. They had tickets sold and people coming. You had to play the game or refund the money. In that day, nobody wanted to refund money because it was so hard to make it up."