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Al Sims humbled by upcoming Komets' banner ceremony

News-Sentinel file photo<br /> <br /> Former coach Al Sims won 504 games and five playoff championships with the Komets. He'll be honored with a banner retirement ceremony before Saturday's game.
News-Sentinel file photo

Former coach Al Sims won 504 games and five playoff championships with the Komets. He'll be honored with a banner retirement ceremony before Saturday's game.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Former coach will be honored Saturday night

Monday, March 20, 2017 09:33 am
During the summer of 1988, Komets coach Rob Laird and General Manager Bob Chase were coming back from lunch when office manager Flossie Zimmerman handed them a note. Former NHL player Al Sims was calling from Germany to ask about a possible player/assistant coach job. Laird and Chase were excited because they thought they had a chance at an all-star defenseman, but Sims' time in Fort Wayne became so much more. Though he coached the last of his five Fort Wayne championships in 2012, it may seem longer than five seasons to him, but the five titles Sims won will never be forgotten, especially after he's added to the team's retired banners on Saturday.

Sims won titles for the Komets in three different leagues, and the 1993 and 2012 championships were among the most meaningful in franchise history. During Sims' first tenure in Fort Wayne, he piloted the team's rebirth for three seasons, culminating in the 1993 Turner Cup miracle 12-0 run. He came back 14 years later and led the team to four titles in five years. The 2012 Central Hockey League championship legitimized the IHL2 league and titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

With Sims behind the bench, the Komets made the playoffs nine times in 10 seasons and he won 504 games, including playoffs, in 10 seasons. Three times Sims' teams rallied from 3-1 deficits to win playoff series, and they were 4-1 in Game 7s.

It's rare when a player or coach gets to control the ultimate end of their career, but a retired banner is the exclamation point for so few.

"I haven't really got words for it," Sims said. "Really in coaching it's nice to be awarded things, but it really is the players you have who make it possible for you to get where I'm at with a jersey ceremony... It's all those guys. I wish they could share it with me because they are very special players that I will remember from my lifetime."

Sims was always known as a players coach, one who let the players run the dressing room while he set the expectations and strategy on the ice. He's hoping many of those players will return for a reunion Saturday night.

"I think it's awesome and to think you are going to be somewhere where people can see it hanging for eternity is really humbling," he said. "It makes you click into what you did somewhere because you never really think about it. Yeah, I've got my rings but I never wear them and they are in a drawer. You don't get the constant reminders of 'You did this in Fort Wayne.' "

When Sims left the Komets in 2013, he thought he was retiring to go home to Toronto and care for his mother. He even gave up his American immigration status, but a year and a half later he returned to coach Evansville until the IceMen folded at the end of last season.

After returning to Toronto, a representative of a local prep school called to ask if Sims would be interested in volunteering as the head coach. He joined the team after training camp.

"I'm enjoying it," he said. "The pressure is obviously a lot less than having to win every game, make the playoffs and win championships. It's really been kind of freeing. You are just there to help the kids learn and try to do the best you can. The kids have all been great and been very receptive in trying to do what we are asking them to do. I knew I wanted to do something for Toronto and something for where I grew up, and this has really worked out well for me."

Now he knows he'll likely never retire from coaching. St. Michael's College School is a all-boys Toronto prep academy which has more than 200 graduates who have played in the NHL, including 14 Hockey Hall of Fame members. The hockey team plays a 52-game schedule in two conferences until the playoffs begin in late-February. The longer Sims coaches, it seems the younger his' players get.

"I'm really pumped up and excited about it," Sims said. "I've done hockey schools and taught kids for a week, but I'd never taken on 25-kids and tried to teach them what I know and try to make the game easier for them. It's been really rewarding to see them do something you started working with them three weeks ago and see it finally click in. Repetition is the best teacher, the more you repeat. It's a totally different outlook and brand of people you are coaching.

"It's really fun. It's just in my blood. You want to get out there in October and November and skate around with the kids. Everybody says you look de-stressed because of these kids. It's been great. You just stay positive and keep them going on the right track and they respond. These kids put a smile on my face every day. You aren't dealing with attitudes, egos and issues. They are just happy to be playing."

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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