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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Al Sims coached the Komets to five championships.

  • File Photo Al Sims coaches the Komets in his first season as head coach, in 1989-90.

Thursday, March 23, 2017 10:02 pm

Sims thrilled about Komets saluting 504

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

Al Sims is now coaching high school hockey players at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto and has had more than 100 players go on to the NHL.

"It’s really a lot of fun coaching kids, 15, 16, 17 years old," said Sims, who coaches there on a volunteer basis. "Nobody taught me how to deal with parents when I was coaching pros, though. We try to explain to them at the start of the year that kids won’t play all the time. It’s play to win and that’s what we try do."

If Sims showed anything in his time with the Komets, it was an ability to adjust and succeed, and he will have the No. 504 retired Saturday in his honor before the game against the Cincinnati Cyclones. Sims, 63, finished his playing career with the Komets in 1988-89 and then coached them to championships in 1993, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 in three different leagues.

"I think it’s a great honor," said Sims, who coached the ECHL’s Evansville IceMen last season. "To have a jersey retired, anyone, anyplace, if someone is going to retire your jersey forever, it’s an overwhelming thing. I was thrilled they thought I was worthy enough to do this."

The 504 is in honor of the franchise-record victories he totaled with the Komets. But his career encompassed much more and certainly not just in Fort Wayne.

He played 476 regular-season games in the NHL, mostly with the Boston Bruins, totaling 49 goals and 165 points. He was the defensive partner of the great Bobby Orr and also played in 40 NHL playoff games.

After coaching the Komets to the 1993 Turner Cup, he went on to spend three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and was the San Jose Sharks head coach in 1996-97. When he returned to the Komets in 2007, it began a run of four championships in five seasons.

"To win one Cup is a great achievement in your career," Sims said. "To win as many as we did with the Komets, it’s beyond what I ever thought could happen when I went there. The way things worked out when the Franke family went there (as owners), it was a great ride. It catapulted me to the NHL and then to go back and win four Cups in six years, it’s incredible."

Sims will be the 18th person – 15 of them who played for the Komets – to have a number raised to the Memorial Coliseum rafters.

Just as Colin Chaulk said before his recent jersey retirement, winning three straight cups in the IHL was impressive even if there were only six or seven teams in the league.

"You still have to beat some real good teams and have some luck on your side. There wasn’t much between us and Port Huron in that three-overtime Game 7 before (Justin Hodgman) scored for the Cup," Sims said.

"I think the competition was there. Port Huron could have won a couple Cups; they were so good, but we got it done."

The Komets play the Quad City Mallards tonight in Moline, Illinois, and it’s by design the Komets are playing Cincinnati after Sims’ ceremony. His son Jordan, who was born in Fort Wayne, plays for the Cyclones. His other son Tyler, who had a brief stint with the Komets as a goalie, is a lawyer in New Jersey.

"It’s been great to sit back and be able to watch (Jordan) play," said Sims, who also has gotten to see his protégé, Gary Graham, coach the Komets to a 38-17-7 record this season.

jcohn@jg.net