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Kandahar Komets enjoying hockey in the desert

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U.S. service members having fun on revitalized rink

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 5:22 am

Have you ever heard of the Kandahar Komets?

Don't worry, this isn't about trademark infringement, and the Komets are thrilled to be involved anyway.

This story started when Rocco Fiato, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant out of Fort Wayne's 122nd Fighter Wing serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, decided to restart a hockey league. The Kandahar Hockey League was originally begun in 2006 by Canadians, but it folded after they rotated home and most of the equipment fell apart from use.

In December, Fiato, 25, ordered almost $9,000 worth of equipment from Komet Kuarters, including 120 jerseys, 100 sticks, 24 pucks, 25 street hockey balls and goaltender equipment. Because of protocol and shipping problems, the equipment didn't arrive until early February. Since it arrived, the hockey rink has been in heavy use.

``When I initially set it up, we had over 70 guys but they all deployed back home,'' Fiato said. ``Now we've got around 30. We always had guys asking if they could play and then the next week they'd start showing up.''

Fiato himself has been sent home, and he's spending the summer in Charleston, S.C. Now he's the commissioner emeritus.

``I'm constantly getting emails from guys telling me who scored and asking questions,'' Fiato said. ``I got an email the other day from a guy who is trying to start a league in Kuwait. Now he's contacting me on how to set it up.''

He also heard the National Hockey League is sending sticks through the USO.

``It's a good workout,'' Rioto said. ``The only problem is you breathe all that crap from the burn pit and the air. It was starting to warm up when I left. I'm sure they have a full schedule now and are sweating their butts off.''

The 12 players per team wear gloves and shin pads, and the goaltender wears regular gear, including a mask. Each team uses two forwards and one defenseman at a time, along with a goaltender. Players can run to play or wear in-line skates provided there's an equal number of players using them on the opposing team.

``It was a great idea,'' Komet Kuarters owner Bill Franke said. ``They are having fun and I'm sure it gets their mind off a lot of things, and that's always positive.

The biggest problem was getting the equipment to Kandahar because it's considered to be a war zone, and traditional shipping organizations said they could not ship there. Retired Indiana Army National Guard Master Sgt. Steve Kingsley was able to call on some buddies for help from the Air National Guard in Fort Wayne and Army Reserve in Indianapolis on the delivery.

Indianapolis showing interest in ECHL.

Indianapolis Business Journal is reporting State Fairgrounds officials are talking with the ECHL about putting an expansion team in Pepsi Coliseum in 2014 when renovations are completed. The renovation is part of a $63 million project that will refurbish the arena into 9,000 seats for hockey.

Indianapolis officials attended the ECHL All-Star Game to talk with league officials, the story said.

ECHL loses Trenton

The Trenton Titans and the ECHL announced Tuesday the team is ceasing operations for next season. The Titans averaged 2,578 fans per game this season, the third-lowest average in the league. All players become free agents.