Maybe the most surprising player remaining on the Komets' roster is Jeremy Gates. That's because he wasn't supposed to be here in the first place.
Gates, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman, was one of the first players signed to Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League by former Komets assistant coach Gary Graham. Gates, who played college hockey at Neumann University with the Komets' Kaleigh Schrock, came to Fort Wayne to take part in a few preseason workouts.
When one prospective Komets defenseman failed his physical, Gates was available when Schrock called to invite him to training camp. After Gates played well in last weekend's exhibition games, Graham and the IceFlyers may have to wait a bit.
``I never expected any of this, so there's been no pressure,'' Gates said.
Even stranger, Gates sat out the game for more than a year after a difference of opinion with his college coach. That was after he played only seven games as a junior.
Instead of sulking, Gates completed his degree as a sports management major with minors in accounting and business administration. Part of that included an internship with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, a Junior A team in Ontario. Gates learned the off-ice part of the hockey business from coach, general manager and owner Sheldon Keefe.
``While I was up there, I got called by a few SPHL teams, but I was only four classes away from graduating and I wanted to get my degree,'' Gates said. ``I'd just like to be in an organization helping out in development and personnel.''
Gates also became the first male Neumann athlete to compete in NCAA Tournaments in two sports. A four-year member of the Knights' golf team, Gates said he shoots in the high 70s. He said being allowed to play golf as well as hockey was one of the reasons he attended a Division III school.
He lives golf, but taking a year away from hockey rekindled his passion for the sport, Gates said.
``I missed it a lot,'' he said. ``One of the positives is that I'm 25, I'm healthy and ready to play. I'm willing to do whatever is needed to try to make the team, and if I make it, it would be a dream come true. If not, it's been an awesome opportunity to make it this far. I've proven to myself that someday I might be able to stick here. I have a lot to look forward to.''
Ks have no deal with Marlies
Several Toronto online reports said Tuesday that the Komets had agreed to become the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League farm club of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Komets General Manager David Franke said he has talked with the Marlies about possibly acquiring some defensemen, but none were available.
The reports said the Marlies were sending three forwards to the Komets, but Franke said that's not true.
``There's nothing in the works between us right now,'' Franke said. ``We'll be receiving some more forwards from Anaheim within the next 24-48 hours. We're not going to be able to take on any more pro-contracted players. We believe that the team we have with the addition of the players from Anaheim... that we have the right guys on the team.''
Franke said several other NHL teams have contacted the Komets about taking on more forwards. The ECHL roster deadline is 3 p.m. today, and each team is limited to 20 active players and two who can be played on reserve. The Komets have 21 players on their roster.
``This is a very unique situation in all of hockey right now, even more difficult than when they lost the whole season because of what is involved,'' Franke said. ``There are so many players out there... but nobody knows how long this thing will last. If it lasts all season it will be the greatest season ever in the history of the ECHL.
``There are so many players out there who are available, if you waited until right now to put your team together you probably could, but if the lockout ends, your whole team could be gone. I can't take the chance that they settle in 35-40 days and half my team is gone.''