I’ve been going to Komet hockey games almost as long as I’ve been alive.

I can remember going to games in the early to mid-1970s. For show-and-tell at elementary school, I tried to draw the ice and markings and have drawn Komets jerseys almost as long.

Today, I don’t buy a program for every game, but I have at least one for almost every season the Komets have played. Part of that comes from the fact my dad bought a program for every game we attended, and usually kept score. As I grew older, he started buying programs for me, and I attempted to keep score too.

Before the games began, the announcer would introduce the starting lineups. Dad circled the numbers of the starters, and because that’s what he did, that’s what I did. He also kept track of who scored the goals and penalties throughout the game. Because he did it, I tried to do it too.

Over the years, we started going to road Komet games. The first one we saw was in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the 1978-1979 season. The Owls played in a converted quonset-type building that looked like an airplane hangar with seating only on the sides. What I remember most about Stadium Arena was the end boards were just a few feet from the wall and the ice seemed to be several inches off the floor, so much so that the Zamboni needed to get a running start just to get onto the ice.

Back then, it was common for fans of other teams to come to the Memorial Coliseum, and for Komet fans to be at road games. In addition to Grand Rapids, our travels took us to Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Hara Arena in Dayton and the Civic Center in Saginaw.

The Komets played in the International Hockey League, which was a true bus league. The team would play at Fort Wayne one night and be off to Kalamazoo, Columbus, Dayton, Saginaw, Port Huron, Flint, Toledo or Des Moines the next.

Only the bravest Komet fans ventured to the Toledo Sports Arena next to the Maumee River. Toledo is still a rival today, but growing up, fans of the old Goaldiggers teams were known to be a rowdy bunch. There were stories — that I can’t personally verify — of cars with Indiana license plates being vandalized and even rumors of fans supposedly trying to push the Komets’ bus into the river.

Memorial Coliseum was like a second home to me. I tell people I practically grew up in that building. I can remember the giant fireball painted at center ice and being fascinated with the backup goalie working the gate at the Komet bench during line changes. Going to the games today, I realize how much I miss Jack Loos playing the organ.

When they removed the old wood seats a few years ago, I made sure to latch onto a pair. I haven’t figured out yet what to do with them, but one of these days, I want to put them to use.

Over the years, the Coliseum has been upgraded with new seats, luxury suites and an upper deck section when the roof was raised. Today’s Coliseum isn’t the one I grew up with, but it’s still home to the Komets, and it’s still my hockey home away from home.

Jeff Jones is the editor of The Butler Bulletin. While he still dreams to one day be a backup goalie for the Komets, he would make sure to wear a toque, not a baseball cap, on the bench. Questions and comments about this column may be sent to jjones@kpcmedia.com.

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