Now he can finally say he's a Komet, though he actually never had much choice. Fenton met Bishop Luers graduate Stefanie Gerardot while both were attending the University of Massachusetts. They married in 2011, and now have a 1-year-old daughter, Emerie Rose.
It's the first grandchild on both sides of the family, meaning the lure of home was pulling as hard as a defenseman trying to stop a breakaway so the first place Fenton called was the Komets. Ironically, Komets management members Michael and David Franke are Bishop Luers graduates who obviously remembered Stefanie.
See, P.J. may be the professional, but Stefanie could be the family's best athlete. She was an amazing basketball player, scoring 1,448 career points and being named The News-Sentinel Player of the Year as a senior when she averaged 24 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.9 steals as a senior. At 5-foot-10, she could score from anywhere on the court.
She also played four years at UMass, scoring 15 points per game as a senior captain, hitting double figures in 25 of 30 games.
Gerardot met Fenton when she was a sophomore and he was a junior at UMass. The son of former NHL player and current Nashville Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton, P.J. grew up in Longmeadow, Mass., and was drafted by San Jose in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL draft. After leaving UMass, he played with Worcester in the American Hockey League, about an hour and 15 minutes way from Gerardot in Amherst as she finished up sociology and accounting degrees.
"Then he went to Germany and I transitioned to Boston," Gerardot said. "It wasn't fun doing the long-distance relationship thing, but we had the connection and made it work."
Fenton came home to play one season with Rochester in the AHL in 2010-11, and then the couple was married that July in Fort Wayne. They held the reception at the Memorial Coliseum where his father recalled getting in his first professional fight and scoring his first pro goal as a member of the 1982-83 Peoria Prancers.
The Fentons moved to Germany for the next four seasons where P.J. scored more than a point per game as a forward, and Stefanie continued her career as an auditor for KPMG, a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Advisory and Tax services.
They always thought about playing in Fort Wayne, but the hockey money was much better in Europe. When Emerie was born in Germany last July, Stefanie knew it was time to come back because being in a foreign country with a baby isn't fun or easy, she said. P.J. received offers from other ECHL teams, but Fort Wayne was going to be home.
"He still has the passion to play hockey, and our heart is in Fort Wayne so we came back," Stefanie said. "It's kind of special for us to have the history here and come back full circle."
Which is why it was possibly the easiest negotiation the Komets have had for a big-name player in several years. Fenton was already flying to Germany on Wednesday to bring the family's stuff back.
"This is where he's planning on playing and retiring," David Franke said. "He's been a good player his whole career, a responsible player who will add a little veteran leadership."
The Komets also announced Wednesday they had re-signed team Most Valuable Player Shawn Szydlowski and Defenseman of the Year Drew Daniels who led the ECHL in plus-minus last season. Szydlowski hopes to return to skating next week after undergoing a season-ending knee injury during the playoffs.
"I'm not worried, but I am anxious to get back on the ice and see how it feels," Szydlowski said. "I'm a little bit excited at the same time since I haven't had any setbacks. I'm ready to get back on the ice and have a god month and a half to get myself back into on-ice shape."
Franke said the team is also continuing to talk contracts with defensemen James Martin and Joey Leach and forward Eric Faille. The Komets have 15 players signed to their training camp roster.