The Fort Wayne Komets would love to build a reputation as a hard hat and lunchpail type of team that never gets outworked. One way to do that is by using an actual hard hat.
After each victory, the Komets gather in their locker room and award a player with an Army helmet from the Korean War as a way to build team unity.
"The hard hat speaks for itself, especially when you are on the road where it's hard to get wins,'' said defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin. "It's a nice thing to hand out when guys put it on the line and give it everything they have.''
Komets captain Nick Tuzzolino initiated the award and furnished the helmet. The Komets used to call a teammate the "Plumber of the Game'' for plugging away and doing some of the dirty work. Other teams have used construction hard hats or pro wrestling championship belts to honor effort.
"Anytime you get stuff like that it's fun to hand out and recognize guys,'' forward Chris Auger said. "Maybe it's not for scoring but for guys who consistently bring it throughout the game. Sometimes you need to recognize players in other ways because they aren't going to get the recognition outside the locker room.''
The hat is only awarded after wins and the new recipient is selected by the player who won the honor the previous game. Tuzzolino picked center Scott Fleming after the Komets' first win, and Fleming selected Danis-Pepin after the second win.
The player chosen has to put the helmet on and give a speech.
"It was just a decision between some of the older guys,'' Tuzzolino said. "We're an army in here, a platoon. It's for if a guy makes a big block or steps up for a big fight or anything.''
It's still a bit of a work in progress. Because Danis-Pepin was injured before last Saturday's win in Cincinnati, the hard hat remained in his locker room stall in Fort Wayne.