Caleb Moore mourned the premature end to the Komets' season as much as anyone. He's a fixture at Memorial Coliseum, one of the guys who wear kilts to games, and his three kids are recognizable because they've been featured on the scoreboard and in team advertisements.
Explaining to those kids why the season was canceled March 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic – the Komets still had 10 games remaining, plus the playoffs – was difficult.
“It was so abrupt,” Moore said. “For me, it was hard to explain to the kids that there's this virus killing people and that's why we can't go to the games anymore. When your oldest is 6, they don't quite understand what's going on with it.”
The family got too close a look at the coronavirus, as Moore was stricken with it in April. Hockey helped get him through it, from Komets MVP Brady Shaw messaging him when he was feeling his worst, to focusing on the quality time he's spent at the Coliseum, to knowing that someday he'll be back at “The Jungle.”
The Komets' 2020-21 home schedule been announced, slated to begin Oct. 17, but many are skeptical that date can be realized under social-distancing guidelines.
“(Look) how many times this virus has already mutated. There's a very bad potential with this and it's something that could stick around for a while,” Moore said. “More likely than not, they need to figure out a way that can be profitable for the team, but doesn't rake the fans over the coals without them being able to televise it. I don't see them packing 8,000 people into the Coliseum for a game. That sounds like a really bad idea.”
Moore's opinion is an informed one as a COVID-19 survivor and someone finishing his nursing degree.
Moore, 32, who grew up in Berne and now lives in Fort Wayne, has been to almost every Komets home game the last three years. He and his wife, Paige, reward their kids' good behavior by bringing them to hockey games.
Their oldest son, Patton, is enthusiastic about meeting players after games and getting his T-shirt autographed. Daughter Penelope adores seeing mascot Icy D. Eagle. The youngest, Basil, gallivants around the house yelling, “I want to play hockey,” and Moore thinks he's “going to be bruiser” when he gets older.
As for the wearing of kilts by Caleb and his brothers, Rob and Ryan, that began about three years ago.
“To give you an idea, I'm 6 foot and 270 (pounds), and I'm the small guy in the family. My brothers did stuff like mud races and things like that. Our mom has done a lot of sewing, so she started making kilts,” Moore said.
“It was one of those things that we got such a cool reaction from it (at the Coliseum), we just kept on doing it. It took maybe half a dozen games before that's what we maybe got known for. We'd walk into the Coliseum and hear, 'Hey, it's the kilt guys.' The first season, we kept having people coming up and asking, 'Hey, can I get a picture with you guys?'”
Moore particularly enjoys seeing NHL prospects skate for the Komets.
“You see a guy like Jermaine (Loewen) come down, the first Jamaican to get drafted (by an NHL team). The dude was on fire. It's fun to see these guys when they're super young,” he said. “And to see the skill level coming down on these NHL contracts, you can understand, when you see some of them (play), how they got these NHL contracts.”
The Komets (31-23-8) had won 10 of 14 games and were showing signs they'd be a factor in the playoffs when play was halted. Moore was disappointed but also optimistic about next season because of the team's young nucleus.
That enthusiasm took a back seat to his health, which deteriorated in the midst of working 15 straight days in the health care industry.
“I just kept on getting more and more tired and I attributed it to, 'You're just working too much, idiot,'” he said. “I grew up doing sports and I woke up on a Thursday and it felt like I had played a football game and gone through an all-day wrestling match (the day before). Every joint in my body hurt and I was like, 'Something ain't right.' From that day on, everything got so much worse and worse and worse. It just wreaked havoc.”
His oxygen level plummeted at one point to 81, whereas he said 90 would have set off an alarm in a hospital.
“Because I'm in nursing school, I've got my own stethoscope. It's creepy being able to listen to your own lungs and hear the crackling and go, 'Oh, crap, that's pneumonia,'” Moore said.
He's no longer symptomatic and looking forward to putting on the kilt, and taking the kids, to another Komets game.
“The only problem I've been having is my lung capacity got shot to crap,” he said. “I'm ex-military, so for me to get out and run 3 to 5 miles in a shot, that was nothing for me. I tried to run the other night and I did a mile and I felt like I was tapping the red line, like I was about to fall over and die.”