Ask The Beat Writer: Fort Wayne Komets for Aug. 4
As the start of a regular new News-Sentinel.com feature, we’ll attempt to answer questions from the fans every two weeks or so. Fans can submit questions by replying to this story, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @blakesebring or on Facebook.
Sarah Knight: When will the team allow the fans to come and watch practice at the Coliseum? I have always wanted to watch them practice!
NS: That’s not a decision or the team to make, but one for the Memorial Coliseum which would have to staff ushers and other staff. When the Komets practice at the Parkview Icehouse — about 35 percent of the time — those sessions are open to the public.
Brandon King: What are our techniques in recruiting talent, do we have scouts or do we solely require on Graham and management to search out and acquire talent?
NS: The Komets have people they trust, including scouts, junior coaches, agents and former players they reach out to for input. They also receive hundreds of emails, phone calls and even faxes from agents and coaches suggesting players, and then the real work begins of watching video, getting input from opposing and former coaches. All the coaches have networks of contacts they rely upon. Often, the players also suggest buddies or younger players they train with back home.
Josh Scheeler: Who designed the current jerseys that are worn? Are there any talks or interest in an alternate jersey coming back into play? Is there interest win a redesign?
NS: Komets General Manager David Franke designs the game uniforms, and Vice President Scott Sproat designs the specialty jerseys that are auctioned for charities. The Komets will have a third jersey this year, a retro of a jersey they wore in the mid-1990s which they might wear opening night, Franke said.
“We re-design them a little bit all the time, moving the orange and black around and moving the striping,” Franke said. “We’re not going to stray too much from the pattern we have now unless we recreate a retro jersey. With our specialty night jerseys, I think it’s good that the main uniforms we wear are pretty consistent.”
Jane Borchelt: What does the home team provide to the visiting team, such as locker room supplies, etc.?
NS: Basically, everything they have in the home locker room, including body wash, towels, game towels, shampoo, conditioner, towels, sports drinks, water, hair gel, chewing gum, coffee including cups, sugar and creamer, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, cotton swabs, hair brushes, lotion, mouthwash and baby powder. There’s also stick tape, clear tape to hold their socks up and coolers of ice. Home teams are also responsible for supplying ice bags, hot pack covers, a treatment table, professional-grade exercise bikes, an exercise ball and all the tools players use to tape and adjust their sticks.
Depending on how busy the schedule is, the Komets spend more than $1,000 a month on toiletries and supplies. It’s definitely not fun for equipment manager Joe Franke to go shopping.
Austin Sadler: Have the Komets considered hiring a strength and conditioning coach to help keep bodies fresh through the season?
NS: Because of roster limitations and playing 72 games over 28 weeks, it’s almost impossible, but that is part of the coaching duties. Depending on the game schedule, players work out two or three times a week at the gym as well as their practice schedule. That’s why the coaches also cut back on practices in the second half last year so the players were fresher in the playoffs. Coach Gary Graham majored in exercise science at Ball State.
Jason Recker: Weirdest pregame ritual you’ve heard of?
NS: You mean like Cody Sol always having to be the last player off following warm-ups? I could write another book based on player superstitions. Some of the more unique ones include Kaleigh Schrock having assistant equipment manager Aaron Franke tape up his sticks, Brent Henley creating puck sculptures before playoff games (who also spit across the red line when leaving warm-ups), Mason Baptista juggling pucks before warm-ups and Brett Smith parking in the same spot in the parking lot and sleeping with a puck under his pillow. Then there was Keith Rodger who named his sticks after females.
Goaltenders are a separate breed, such as Robbie Irons and Chuck Adamson getting sick before games or Pokey Reddick getting sick between periods if he was playing well.
Probably the most successful one was Ian Boyce, Peter Hankinson, Bobby Jay and Grant Richison finding Olive Garden waitresses to sing Tom Petty’s “American Girl” during pregame meals throughout the 1993 Turner Cup playoffs.
Larry Schmitt: Name for me please players during your tenure as the Komets beat writer who you thought should have made it to the NHL, or who made it in the NHL and should have been more of a success?
NS: Let’s start with guys who I thought deserved a better chance in Jean-Marc Richard, Bruce Racine and Jim Burton. Other players who I always thought would stick include Igor Chibirev, Andrei Bashkirov and Dan Ratushny, and surprises who made it include Todd Reirden, Andre Roy and Lance Ward.
Richard Thornton: Can any team in the ECHL sign a player to more than a one-year contract?
NS: No, and players can be released at any time.
Andy Jordan: My question is what happens prior to the games? What time do the players arrive at the rink? What are their routines? What time do you and the media arrive? What happens behind the scenes at the coliseum that we never see as fans?
NS: Everyone has a routine. After an hour-long morning skate, players go to lunch before heading home for pregame naps. They report at least two hours before gametime and to drink coffee, stretch, work on sticks and/or complete their mental routines. Half the team plays a soccer game before heading into a team gameplan meeting about 15 minutes before warm-ups. The coliseum’s Jeff Alcox is always working on the ice about three hours before gametime, and Rick Bireley and his staff are stuffing programs and setting up the souvenir stand two hours before faceoff. I arrive a minimum of two hours before faceoff, and it’s usually a race between public address announcer Larry Schmitt and WOWO broadcaster Shane Albahrani and I to make it to the press box first. Komets PR man Chuck Bailey always sets out the stat packs earlier in the day, and timekeeper Ken Roehrs is almost the first off-ice official to arrive.
Thanks for taking part in our “Ask the beat writer” segment. Please continue to submit questions and we’ll be back soon. What would you like to learn about your favorite hockey team?