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The Journal Gazette

  • Charity Matheson | Special to The Journal Gazette Former Komets coach Greg Puhalski now coaches the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks.

  • Eva Ou | Special to The Journal Gazette Former Komets coach Greg Puhalski, left, now coaches the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:00 am

Puhalski to get honor before Toledo game

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Komets at Toledo

When: 5:30 p.m.

Where: Huntington Center, Toledo, Ohio

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

Greg Puhalski believes coaching in the college ranks isn't all that much different than it was with the Komets. Success is based on the ability to recruit players with talent and leadership qualities, Puhalski said, and on the ability to teach them how to succeed on and off the ice.

For what Puhalski did as both as a coach and a player, he'll be a big part of the festivities at the ECHL All-Star Classic this weekend; he'll be inducted into the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame before the Komets play the Toledo Walleye at 5:30 p.m. today at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.

Puhalski, who guided the Komets to the United Hockey League's Colonial Cup in 2003, ranks second in franchise wins with 271, behind Al Sims' 437.

He's been the head coach at Wilfrid Laurier University – his alma mater in Waterloo, Ontario – since 2010.

Puhalski, 54, hopes it's where he'll end his career.

“With coaching, you never know. But this is definitely where I'd like to end my coaching career,” he said. “Right now it's the longest place I've ever coached in. Fort Wayne had been the longest I'd been in a place before this.”

Puhalski played for the Golden Hawks from 1987 to 1991 before his professional playing career with the Toledo Storm of the ECHL, which spanned until 1994. Also going into the Toledo Hall of Fame today are Chris McSorley, who coached him in Toledo, Moe Benoit, John McGrath and Mike Eruzione, who starred for the U.S. 1980 Olympic Team.

The ECHL will also make inductions into its Hall of Fame that include Puhalski's former teammates Jim Bermingham, Alex Hicks and Rick Judson, along with former ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna. Judson played for the Komets in 2000-01, Puhalski's first season behind the Fort Wayne bench.

“It's going to be a good time to catch up with guys I haven't seen in years and to renew acquaintances,” said Puhalski, who is 109-134-21 in the regular season with Wilfrid Laurier and 5-13 in the postseason. “I know a few of my teammates I played with there are making the trip to Toledo and it's going to be very special.”

Pualski coached the Komets from 2000 to 2006 and missed the playoffs only once. Recruiting players such as Colin Chaulk, Sean Venedam, Dustin Virag and Kevin St. Pierre was a big part of that success.

“The one part that's very similar is the recruitment part; it pretty much parallels what I did in the United Hockey League in Fort Wayne or in Toledo or in Port Huron or Wheeling, wherever I coached,” Puhalski said. “That part of it, the recruiting, is a huge part of it because like anything, you've got to have quality talent as well as character to make your program hum along.”

Most of the recruiting he does is of players coming from the Ontario Hockey League. When he lands a player, Puhalski has to do a lot of teaching, but that's not all that different than when he was at Memorial Coliseum.

“They weren't that much older (in Fort Wayne). You'd have your veteran guys when you'd coach pro, and you'd lean on those guys a lot, and you do lean on your seniors in university hockey,” Puhalski said. “The teaching part of the game, it's much the same as it was in pro. The one thing that you're probably looking to do more so is really teach some leadership that takes them beyond just playing hockey. You hope it's something that they can use the rest of their lives.”

Puhalski looks back on his time in Fort Wayne and believes he was blessed to have great leaders in Fort Wayne, such as Chaulk and Troy Neumeier. During this preseason, he even got to coach against Chaulk, who's now behind the bench of the ECHL's Brampton Beast.

“A big part of any successful organization is the leadership you have with your team and it's no different with university hockey and you just have to try and develop it even more,” Puhalski said.

The All-Star Classic is 7 p.m. Monday at the Huntington Center. The Komets' Justin Hodgman will captain the Western Conference team. Joe and Aaron Franke will be equipment managers.

Note: The Komets released goaltender Hayden Stewart, who stopped 8 of 10 shots in relief of Lukas Hafner in Wednesday's 10-8 loss to Kalamazoo. Eric Levine, claimed off waivers from Newfoundland, will now be the backup to Hafner.

jcohn@jg.net