Jeremy Wadsworth | The Blade Toledo Walleye forward Greg Wolfe, right, battles Komets defenseman Cody Sol for the puck in Game 1 of the Central Division semifinals at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:00 am
Sol shakes off worst Toledo has to offer
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Cody Sol neither needs nor wants the help. But he certainly deserves some thanks from fans of the Komets.
No player in the team's 67 seasons of play has had to endure what Sol has in this Central Division semifinals series with the Toledo Walleye.
Before Game 5 had even begun Saturday in Toledo, the fans were chanting, “Sol, you suck,” and the mantra returned whenever he was on the ice – all night. He wasn't the only player to take a spill on the Huntington Center ice, but when he did it gave 7,704 fans perhaps their most thunderous moment of the game.
“For sure, I feed off it,” said Sol, whose team won that must-win game 5-3. “It's tough when they're yelling at you, but you kind of just tune it out and you use it as a momentum shift for yourself, and just play better and try to show them wrong.”
Getting the business in other buildings is nothing new for the 28-year-old Sol, who is in his fifth season with the Komets.
But the hatred for Sol, 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, doesn't seem to have any rational basis in a series consumed by cheap shots, dives and mouthing off from players of all sizes.
“It's a hostile environment there. My mom takes (my treatment) a little bit to heart, but maybe it's a sign of respect that I get at other places,” Sol said. “It's the same at Cincinnati, Indy or Toledo that the fans are all over me, but it's usually a little motivation for me to play out there.”
With respect, because Sol is not someone you want to get angry, it's nothing like this in Cincinnati or Indy, where the fan bases aren't as large or vocal as they are in Toledo.
You have to go back at least 25 years to find a Fort Wayne player this maligned in another building and that was Steve Fletcher, whose battles with the Indianapolis Ice of the International Hockey League are the stuff of legend. Fletcher had to deal with Ice tough guy Kerry Toporowski – the IHL got so fed up with their brawling that they were not allowed to play in the other team's rink – and Fletcher endured racial slurs and fans hanging bananas over the glass.
I wouldn't equate what Sol tolerates with racial taunts, but he's also playing in an era with Photoshop and social media. His picture has been morphed into everything from a sasquatch to the Philadelphia Flyers' crazy-looking mascot, Gritty, and here's hoping Sol's mother turns a blind eye to all the signs and memes.
“I'm still her baby boy. I'm still a momma's boy. But she knows it's part of the game and she loves watching me play. It is what it is, but she loves watching me play,” Sol said.
Sol's game this season hasn't quite been what it was from 2016 to 2018, when he totaled 19 goals, 65 points and 309 penalty minutes in 137 games, along with, wait for it, a plus-70 rating. But he's still darned good. He had four goals, 11 points, 91 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating during 41 regular-season games, and he's got one assist, 12 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating in this series.
It just seems Toledo's fans are stuck in 2015-16, when Sol led the ECHL with 259 penalty minutes. He then transformed himself; he was third in the ECHL at plus-39 in 2016-17 and had netted seven goals. He still hits and fights, just not as much.
“The way I played for years, I'm sure the fans have grown to hate me,” Sol said. “But it's a style of play I needed to get some space out there. Bigger guys, they always say can't move their feet as well, but I strive myself on being a pretty good skater and that's the style of play I need to get some space out there.”
Sol was selected the Komets' Defenseman of the Year in 2017 and, more importantly, won the Bud Gallmeier award for community service in 2016. He's appeared in all 61 playoff games since joining the Komets and become an alternate captain.
Tonight when the Komets and Walleye play Game 6 of their series, the confines of Memorial Coliseum will be much friendlier than what he endured Saturday. Here's hoping the fans in the building gives him resounding cheers all night because, if Fort Wayne wins, he'll endure the opposite in Game 7 at Toledo.
Justin A. Cohn, senior writer for The Journal Gazette, has covered Fort Wayne sports since 1997. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or phone at 260-461-8429. You can also follow him on Twitter@sportsicohn.