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Komets look forward to a full season after two years of delays

Dean Jackson

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 20, 2021

Few things are as uniquely Fort Wayne as Komet hockey.

Win, lose, or overtime shoot-out, generation after generation, the team has woven its place into the heart of a community.

On opening night, which is Saturday, Oct. 23, the team will raise a Kelly Cup banner and hand out championship rings and lift the lid on a season they hope returns the Komets to that special place of honor.

The 2021-22 season has a very clear objective: keep it simple and bring back the magic.

Retrieving What Makes the Game Great

“It’s nice to get hockey back and get things a little bit closer to normal,” said Josh Testin, the team’s director of sales and promotions, in an interview with Whatzup. “With everything that’s been going on the last couple of years, what better way to start opening night with all the different things that we’ve got going on?”

With COVID-19 sidelining the team for parts of two seasons, the game experience was much more subdued.

Now, Testin says it’s time to welcome back the traditions and game day experience that has anchored the team to Fort Wayne for 70 years.

“We’re trying to get back to what it was like two years ago,” Testin said. “Last year, so much was taken away from us. We didn’t start until February. We weren’t able to do a lot of the fun things that we normally do.”

Opening night is always a celebration and a homecoming of sorts with a mix of the team’s past with a homage to legendary players and coaches from the past and an extended intro for the 2021-22 team.

Hanging a championship banner is something the team hasn’t enjoyed for nearly a decade.

“It’s been a few years now since we’ve had a chance to do that,” Testin said. “2012 is the last one that we had one. It’s the feeling of coming back as the champion and everyone wanting to beat you. Just the visual of it and the participation of our crowd. They are always there to embrace it.”

New Urgency

Coming back from COVID adds a new dynamic and a new urgency for fans.

When the puck drops at 7:30 p.m., Testin expects the crowd to be explosive. So he wants to reward their patience and loyalty.

Even with greatly reduced crowds and safety protocols, fans and sponsors stood by the team throughout the pandemic.

“Our fan base showed us this last spring and summer they were eager to come back out and attend games again,” he said. “We hope that continues into the fall.”

The recipe is more than just winning games and entertainment. Komet hockey is a way of life. Fans sit in the same seat season after season. They have become part of the Komets family.

Testin enjoys watching the fans every game.

“We have more than 3,500 season ticket holders,” he said. “You come into any one of the sections and they all know each other. Even if they haven’t seen each other for months, the connection is still there. It’s fun to watch the interaction.”

Fan-Favorite Events

The team opens up with fan favorites early in the season.

Friday, Nov. 5, is the teddy bear toss. Testin said it’s an emotional night for everyone in the Komet family. During that game, fans flood the playing surface with thousands of stuffed animals. Each bear finds a home with a child with an emotional or financial need.

“We ask our fans to bring in new or gently used stuffed animals, and then when the Komets score their first goal, everybody throws their stuffed animals,” he said. “It’s a sight to see.

November also has military appreciation night on Nov. 13, pet detective night on Nov. 20, and the Bob Chase memorial game on Thanksgiving.

Testin believes one of the reasons the franchise has endeared itself for decades is because of the game’s entertainment value.

“Our cheapest ticket starts at $14, and our most expensive is just $30,” he said. “If you are looking at options in Fort Wayne or surrounding cities, you are going to have a hard time finding a night of fun with affordability like that.”

Testin said the Komets partner with sponsors for game promotions and tickets. He points to the Fill-up promotion with Marathon stations.

On Sunday nights, fans get a chance to skate on the ice after games.

“Bring your skates and get on the ice,” Testin said. “That’s always a great experience.”

More special nights include princess night on March 27 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles night on April 8.

Throughout the season, the team hosts Kids Seat Free nights where kids get free tickets with every adult ticket purchased.

Even Icy D. Eagle, the team’s mascot, is iconic to fans.

“He’s a character all his own,” Testin said. “He’s amazing and doesn’t miss a beat. Fans young and old love him. It’s fun to see fans that experienced him when they were young, when he first came to town, to see them experience him now they are adults. He spans generations with his entertainment.”


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