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Komets' Schaafsma feeling the love in Allen

Photo courtesy of Dianne Webster/Allen Americans<br /> <br /> Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma is playing against his former team in Allen during the ECHL Western Conference Finals. Schaafsma led the Americans to an ECHL title last year. 
Photo courtesy of Dianne Webster/Allen Americans

Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma is playing against his former team in Allen during the ECHL Western Conference Finals. Schaafsma led the Americans to an ECHL title last year. 
Photo courtesy of Dianne Webster/Allen Americans<br />
<br />
Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma battles for control of the puck off a faceoff with Allen co-captains and former teammates Gary Steffes, left, and Chad Costello during Thursday's Game 3 in Texas.
Photo courtesy of Dianne Webster/Allen Americans

Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma battles for control of the puck off a faceoff with Allen co-captains and former teammates Gary Steffes, left, and Chad Costello during Thursday's Game 3 in Texas.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

He's leading Fort Wayne against former team

Friday, May 20, 2016 08:13 pm
As soon as the Fort Komets stepped onto their bus at Love Field in Dallas on Wednesday, they started to understand how popular Jamie Schaafsma is in Texas. "The bus driver knows him and is asking about his family and everything," Komets broadcaster Shane Albahrani said. "He knows everybody, it's like he's the mayor of this town."

Schaafsma played three years in Allen, winning three championships, two in the Central Hockey League and last year in the ECHL. He left the Americans amicably because the team lost some married housing and Schaafsma and his wife Nicole wanted to get a little closer to home in Chatham, Ontario. In fact, Americans coach Steve Martinson said he and Schaafsma talked earlier this season about how appropriate it would be if the Komets faced Allen in the playoffs.

"We know Jamie and the type of game he plays," said Americans co-captain Chad Costello before the series. "He really steps up his game in the playoffs, so you have to be aware of him on the ice."

And then there's Schaafsma's popularity with the Allen fans. There were plenty of Americans fans wearing his replica jersey for Game 3 on Thursday night, and he got dozens of hugs and high fives as he came off the ice for warm-ups. There was also a nice round of applause when Komets coach Gary Graham included Schaafsma in the starting lineup.

"I think he had some nerves last night which is to be expected," Graham sad. "He wasn't happy with his first period, but he got better as the game went on. When you played so many years and you are invested in a town like he has been in Allen, it's got to be a unique spot for him."

It's also a unique spot for the Americans' fans, because how do you all of a sudden start hating a guy whom you've seen sacrifice and lead your team to such great experiences? So many great hockey memories that have been built in Allen include Schaafsma right in the middle of them. He's always been a player who performs his best in the biggest moments, and the Americans have had a lot of huge experiences that happened with and sometimes because of Schaafsma.

"He was a very popular player here, one of the most-popular players in Allen Americans history," Allen broadcaster Tommy Daniels said. "He's a great family guy, the example you want to set for younger guys in the room. He's respected by everybody. It was tough to see him at first on the other side, but the more you get into the series, the less weird it gets. Last night was pretty emotional for them because he had a lot of fans he was pretty close to. It was almost a bit surreal."

It's also unique that Nicole and their two children also made the trip to Allen, at the urging of friends. They sat with the family of Allen star Costello on Thursday night, while dad had a little bit tougher time adjusting on the ice.

"I don't really get too nervous for games nowadays, but yesterday I think my nerves got the best of me in the first half of the game," Schaafsma said. "Once I got settled in and got used to it, it became just like any other game. It was nice to come back here and see everyone again. It's pretty cool off the ice, too. I'm sure during the game they are yelling at me, but I tune all that out."

Imagine going from being one of the team's all-time great heroes to now being the bitter enemy, captain of the team that is trying to end the Americans' historic run. Imagine playing against all these players you became brothers with the last three years.

"If you win a championship together you never forget those guys," Schaafsma said. "That's what I want to do with these guys here in Fort Wayne. It solidifies that relationship forever."

Imagine if Colin Chin, Kaleigh Schrock or Colin Chaulk left Fort Wayne and then someday came back to play against the Komets in the playoffs. It would be an odd feeling for everyone.

"There were a lot of people saying how happy they were to see me, yelling my name and stuff," Schaafsma said. "There were people telling me to come home. I thought I'd be able to tune everything out and ignore it, but it was weird to look into the stands and see everyone smiling at me.

"I think I've had my warm reception and it might not be so warm any more. That's part of being a fan, you get to boo and cheer whomever you want. They are going to cheer for their team, and I don't take anything personally. It's a game and once the game is over, I'll still feel a lot of love from the Allen fans."

But at least this week he might not have too much luck running for mayor.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com.?

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