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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Colin Chaulk hoists the Central Hockey League’s President’s Cup at Memorial Coliseum before his last home opener with the Komets in 2012.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Colin Chaulk celebrates a goal against Port Huron in 2008.

Friday, February 17, 2017 7:37 am

Komets to retire Chaulk's 91

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

It was the first game of the 2007-08 season and he was still building his résumé as the great leader of franchise history. He had already uttered the phrase "Tired is for Losers," but still had four more championships to win, had yet to fight off the staph infection so bad that doctors would discuss amputating his leg.

The Colin Chaulk story was nowhere close to complete, but the 10,153 Memorial Coliseum fans were so excited to have him back in a Komets uniform that October night, after he had spent a season in Italy, that they made him feel the affection.

"I remember entering the ice from the Zamboni doors, and we only did that periodically, and I remember the announcer saying, ‘He’s back,’ " Chaulk said Thursday. "The building just shook. I almost fell over. I almost couldn’t stand up coming onto the ice. You weren’t expecting that kind of welcome from the fans. The Coliseum is so big and to get it really thunderous, you really have to have everybody going and everybody really excited to make that kind of noise."

It became inevitable the Komets would retire Chaulk’s number – 91 – and they will do that Saturday at the Coliseum before a game against the Brampton Beast, the team Chaulk coaches. Chaulk will be the 17th person, the 14th player, to get a number hoisted to the rafters.

"It’s obviously an amazing honor to be alongside a bunch of Komet greats," Chaulk said. "My kids are really excited. They grew up in Fort Wayne and they love Komet hockey. Hopefully it’ll be a great night and the Beast will get two points."

On March 25, the Komets will raise No. 504 to represent the number of coaching victories for Al Sims, who collaborated with Chaulk on three consecutive playoff championships in the International Hockey League from 2008 to 2010 and for the Central Hockey League championship in 2012. But Chaulk’s tenure with the Komets began under Greg Puhalski in the United Hockey League in 2002-03, when he captained Fort Wayne to its first championship in 10 years.

"Oh man, there are so many great memories," said Chaulk, a 40-year-old native of Toronto. "The first Cup was one of the best. I was just so overwhelmed with emotions, screaming and so excited to party and celebrate."

Chaulk totaled 217 goals and 786 points in 687 games for Fort Wayne. Only Len Thornson and Eddie Long totaled more than his 684 regular-season points, and Chaulk’s 102 playoff points are better than everyone but Thornson’s 127. 

Chaulk was selected leaguewide best defensive forward four times. Five times he was selected MVP by his teammates, who watched as Chaulk endured the staph infection in 2008-09 that cost him half the championship season and almost his career.

Between 2002 and his retirement in 2013, Chaulk played for Alleghe twice, including a 26-game stint in 2010-11. After returning midway through the season, he propelled the Komets from last place to the second round of the playoffs.

The fifth championship of Chaulk’s career legitimized the greatness of those Komets teams for some because the CHL had 14 franchises, whereas the IHL had six or seven.

"People used to gripe about the IHL being a six-team league, but I always thought, ‘Well, how come nobody else won the championship if it was so easy?’ " said Chaulk, who helped the Komets successfully recover from 3-1 series deficits in the 2005 semifinals, 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals.

"The last Cup, I was more calm. Like everybody, I was completely gassed. That was a tough run. But it was nice to watch. With age comes experience, and to see guys winning their first Cups, it was pretty cool to see how they just couldn’t control themselves. A lot of us said that when we won, it was more of a relief because we expected to win."

Another staph infection in 2012-13 left the nerves in Chaulk’s body so ravaged that he could play only 28 games, forcing his retirement.

"I can’t imagine anything like this has ever happened, having your number retired and then coaching for the other team," said Chaulk, in his second year with Brampton. "My focus is on the game and our players’ focus needs to be on that, too."