Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on the Fort Wayne Komets 1993 championship season.
Though everyone considered the Fort Wayne Komets the underdog heading into the 1993 Turner Cup finals against the dominant San Diego Gulls, they were actually the hotter team.
After sweeping Cleveland and Atlanta, the Komets had been challenged in only one playoff game, a 2-1 thriller in Game 2 against Atlanta at the Omni which several veterans said was the best game they ever played in. Meanwhile, San Diego needed six games to defeat defending champion Kansas City.
``I think it was good that we had distance from when they played us the last time (Dec. 29),'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``They had dominated us, but I think we went into that series as the more confident team.''
Compared with the Gulls, the Komets had only 202 games and 10 goals of NHL experience, but 130 of those games came from goaltender Pokey Reddick. Desperate for one more NHL contract, Reddick started focusing on the playoffs late in the regular season. No one, not even a teammate or trainer Joe Franke, was allowed talk to Reddick before a game – or even nod or wave a hello. That's also just about what the Komets did with opponents, too, keeping them outside and away from Reddick.
In many ways, Sims had an easy time in the playoffs. Because his team was so well prepared, all he had to do was fill out the lineup card and open the locker room door. There was one potential glitch when Colin Chin and Bobby Jay were knocked out with injuries in Game 4 against Atlanta, but the Komets added center Sylvain Couturier, and Guy Dupuis stepped up on defense.
``I think after every game we just built and got more confident,'' Sims said, ``and by the time we hit San Diego, I think there was some doubt in everybody's mind, including mine, but after that first game it was `Hey, we can do this.' ''
The Komets won 7-1 behind a Paul Willett hat trick. With the Gulls coming out even harder, Game 2's 5-1 decision was even more impressive and devastating to San Diego. The Gulls had two shots on goal over the initial 10 minutes of the first game and only one halfway through the period in the second game. Fort Wayne led 2-0 in each game after 10 minutes.
``For the most part we tried to keep things going the way we had them during the first two series,'' Sims said. ``The one thing we did was shadow Hubie McDonough in San Diego. We put (Peter) Hankinson on him because Hank could skate, and it was funny because McDonough would just stand at the far blue line or behind the play, and Hank would just stand with him. We played the rest of them four-on-four.
``With him out of the picture, it was like taking your best player out, and he might as well have been injured or something. Hank did a great job because it was obvious guys went after him and tried to hack him.''
The Gulls' last gasp came in Game 3. Though the Komets outshot San Diego 47-23, the Gulls hung tough and forced overtime. Taking a pass from Carey Lucyk, Scott Gruhl blasted a slap shot between Clint Malarchuk's glove and right pad 11:18 into overtime for the game winner. It was Gruhl's 1,400th career IHL point in his 1,000th IHL game.
Game 4 was a huge celebration from the start as the Komets won 6-1 to finish their 12-0 sweep. The announced attendance was a standing-room-only 8,154, but there were more than 10,000 people in the building as many Wizards fans had come in after Fort Wayne beat Peoria across the parking lot at Memorial Stadium. The score in that game? 12-0.
Reddick was the star of stars, holding San Diego to five goals in four games. For the playoffs he had a 1.49 goals-against average a.949 save percentage. He finished 24-0-1 over his last 25 games as the Komets went 27-2-1, including winning the last 17 in a row.
The entire event was remarkable in so many ways, noteworthy enough to gain notice in the national news media, not just the national sports media.
``It's just something that every one of us will never forget,'' Sims said two weeks ago. ``We'll be 90 years old and we'll still be telling stories about 12-0. Anybody on that team I'd sit down with, it would be like there he is, the same as he was 20 years ago when we went through that experience. There are just so many great memories.''