There are 13 names hanging from the Memorial Coliseum rafters on the Fort Wayne Komets’ retired banners. It’s amazing how many of them experienced personal tragedies while growing up only to become successful in their careers. It’s amazing how many of those men didn’t want to be in Fort Wayne when they first arrived, yet none would ever leave now. They first became part of the team, and then part of the community. While they were Komets, the impact they had on people’s lives is astonishing as there are thousands of stories about those 13 men and what they meant to their fans. This book’s goal is to rekindle some of those memories for all those who saw them as their heroes.PREVIEW: From the foreward:For 56 years the Fort Wayne Komets have been a vibrant example of what is good about our city. In the late 1940s the idea of the Memorial Coliseum created tremendous dreams about what could become reality in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The new building brought about the Zollner Pistons and the Fort Wayne Komets. As history played out, it was the Komets, who were actually the second sports team in the coliseum that made it long-term. The Pistons are long gone to Detroit, but the Fort Wayne Komets have remained as an institution in Fort Wayne.Generations of Komets fans have come and gone in 56 years to make Fort Wayne one of the best minor league hockey cities in North America. It is that fan base that has made the Fort Wayne Komets a model franchise in all of minor league sports. This organization belongs to Fort Wayne, and as owners we are merely keepers of this franchise. To the many Komets fans who will read this book, we can only say thank you for your support of this team.For many of you, it started back in the 1950s, coming to Komet games with your family. Now you attend with your children and grandchildren. For others, it was the championships of the 1960s, 1970s, 1990s or of the new century that started your love affair. With the Komets, as the song said, “The beat goes on,” and for the Komets and their fans it’s never sounded better.
The Komet players have been a huge part of the team’s success in Fort Wayne. The numbers of former Komets living in Fort Wayne today is staggering; a true testament to what our city is all about. It’s wonderful to know that George Drysdale, the first Komets’ elected captain, has lived almost his entire adult life in Fort Wayne, working and raising his family here. Now retired, you’ll find George at Komet games working as an off-ice official as he has a true love for the Komet organization and this city.
Retiring jersey numbers of long-time Komet players is a tradition in Fort Wayne. For a number of years that tradition was broken, but in the early 1990s we decided it was time to re-institute the retired numbers. For many of us growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the names of Thornson, Repka, Long, Primeau, Irons and Pembroke were our idols as fans. Today their numbers are retired to the rafters of the coliseum. Later the names of Chin, Chase, Fletcher, Laird, Ullyot, Lister and Gallmeier were hoisted to the rafters.
Many times fans have asked us how we determine who gets to have their name retired into the history of Komets hockey. The answer is simple, longevity, accomplishments and the intangibles of making a difference for this organization go into the entire process of choosing. All of these men passed the test with flying colors.
Will others follow? Yes, in due time there will be others, but the names and numbers will become less as time moves on because everything is different today. Players don’t stay in one place like they used to. It’s a different world we live in today… even in the hockey world.
Which makes you appreciate even more what these men have accomplished and meant to the Komets. Enjoy!
Michael and David Franke
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