Though he'd just completed a grueling championship run last week, when Al Sims stepped to the microphone Thursday afternoon, he still had fire in his eyes. He looks like he's used the last week for spa treatments every day.
``For me, obviously, I put a lot of pressure on myself to win championships,'' the Komets' coach said. ``I feel Fort Wayne deserves them. They support their team better than almost any other franchise in minor league hockey. It's a storied franchise, and to be a part of it is thrilling. This new league is a new adventure and a new challenge for the Frankes and myself, and if we go about business the way we normally do, I think we can have success. I'm looking forward to winning another cup in another league.''
Little more than a week after winning the Central Hockey League's Presidents' Cup, the Komets started to focus on another mountain to conquer as they are moving to the ECHL and aiming for the Kelly Cup. Sims has signed a contract extension and will continue to set the goals and the tone in the locker room.
Everyone should still be exhausted, trying to catch up on sleep, laundry and yard work, but Sims, General Manager David Franke and captain Colin Chaulk are practically begging for the next challenge. As Chaulk always says, ``Tired is for losers,'' and the Komets don't like to lose.
``We embrace the challenges,'' Franke said. ``We have won championships in four different leagues and our goal will be to add another championship with the Kelly Cup in the ECHL. I'm excited about this because this is what really keeps me going, and I think it keeps our staff going, too.''
But talking about championships when just joining a new league is why so many opposing fans hate the Komets. They see them as arrogant, even a little obnoxious. The Komets see it as simply speaking the truth as they know it. Their motto seems to be it's not bragging if you can make it happen. They say it, the returning players nod their heads and then the new players start to believe it the way everyone else around here does.
``I think the fans expect to win every year, the media expects to win every year, the franchise expects to win every year and obviously the coach expects to win,'' Sims said. ``We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get that job done, and we've done a pretty good job of it the last five years.
``Hopefully my players get the same message from me. From the first day of training camp, we talk about championships right away and put it in people's ears that this is what we expect of them. When you you tell people what you expect of them, sometimes they meet your expectations.''
It's no wonder the Komets always get everyone's best effort against them because who wouldn't like to be the team to knock that chip off their shoulder? Led by Chaulk, Nick Boucher and Kaleigh Schrock, the players love that threat and use it to fuel their intensity.
Next year will be different in some ways because there could be only four veterans (goaltenders are exempt), and the Komets ended this season with eight on the roster. Some fan favorites are not coming back.
The Frankes believe they'll just find new ones, like it's that simple. Part of that process will include some kind of affiliation with an American Hockey League club because that will help attract quality players.
``We're going to weigh our thoughts on that over the next few weeks,'' Franke said. ``We will probably do an affiliation, but it will be somebody that I know from working with in the NHL and somebody who will work with us and we can work with them so it won't be a one-way street.
``If we can get some good players and help them out a little bit, and at the end of the day it makes our team a better team, we'll do it. We're going to control the destiny of the players on our team like we have for the past 22 years. An affiliation won't change that, but it will give us an avenue to help expose our players to the higher leagues if possible.''
But what about moving to the ECHL, which Franke called the best league the Komets have played in during Thursday's news conference? The Komets from the early 1990s might righteously disagree just a tad, but the current Komets are feeling it right now.
``The UHL, IHL, CHL, ECHL — it's all AA hockey, folks,'' said Chaulk, showing a bit of fire in his eyes when asked the question. ``You'll see come October that the Komets will be competitive and they'll have an equal chance against anybody else to win the Kelly Cup and compete for it.''
With the record he and Sims and Franke have built, it's tough to argue.