Down 3-1 to Rockford in the 2005 semifinals, Colin Chaulk quipped, Tired is for losers.
The Komets won that series.
Three times with the Komets, in fact, Chaulk helped rally his teammates to comebacks from 3-1 deficits in playoff series. More than the points – and he tallied 625 of them in 535 games – and more than the individual awards, Chaulk’s ability to get the best out of his teammates defined his tenure with Komets.
That tenure came to a close Friday when the center agreed to play for HC Alleghe in Italy.
Obviously, he’s a really good player, a No. 1 centerman, a great playmaker, competitor and he’s feisty, left wing P.C. Drouin said. He’s got a lot of attributes that you don’t see in very many players. He’s also a really good leader off the ice. It’s going to be hard to see him go and not play with him anymore.
Chaulk, 33, guided the Komets to four championships in seven seasons – he skated with Alleghe in 2006-07 – earning a reputation as one of the best two-way forwards in the minors. Four times, he was selected as the top defensive forward with the Komets in either the United or International Hockey Leagues. Four times, he was chosen team MVP.
Chaulk’s decision to leave the Komets casts a shadow on the team, as it readies for its first season in the IHL-Central Hockey League coalition.
It’s true, AA hockey is changing and the salaries are coming down, teams are folding, and it’s a little scary at my age, Chaulk said. But I still have good seasons left here. The opportunity to go overseas came up. This is a second chance we have to experience that, and if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it again.
So far, the Komets have signed only three players – former Port Huron forwards Derek Patrosso and Brandon Naurato, and defenseman Bobby Phillips – and some players were waiting to see what Chaulk did before they made their decisions.
Obviously, losing Chaulk, it’s a gut shot to the team, forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said. It’ll be tough to win a championship without him. That’s the truth. Anytime you lose your leader and probably your most talented player, when you lose all of that, it’s such a big blow.
The Komets have about given up on trying to re-sign playoff MVP Matt Syroczynski, but general manager David Franke said he’s confident he can replace Chaulk’s production through free agency.
With Colin leaving the club, it’ll mean we’ll have a different look, there’s no question about that, Franke said.
I think there are some players on the team right now who can step into the leadership role. They have expressed that to me in their dealings. They want to be more vocal in the locker room and on the ice. Hopefully, some of our players have picked up on stuff through the years from Colin, and they’ve learned from one of the best leaders you can have on a team.
In the meantime, the Komets’ desire to re-sign Drouin, captain Guy Dupuis and second-line center Leo Thomas has increased.