Center Colin Chaulk is one of the most accomplished players in 58 seasons of Komets hockey, and arguably the teams greatest leader. His number – 91 – will undoubtedly hang in the Memorial Coliseum rafters someday.
He was the straw that stirred the drink, the heart and soul of the hockey club, general manager David Franke said.
But for the second time, Chaulk is bidding adieu to the orange and black, signing to play next season with HC Alleghe in Italy.
This has been a very difficult decision, said Chaulk, who guided the Komets to four playoff championships in seven seasons. Both our kids were born here, and weve got so many friends here. Making the decision to move is hard, for sure. Very hard. And its a little bit scary.
So why is Chaulk, who had been selected MVP by his teammates four times, bolting the Summit City? He dreams of one day being a full-time coach and it will be easier for him to work toward that by moving to his hometown of Toronto, teach when he can, and play in the abridged European season.
Chaulk has been hockey director at Canlan Ice Sports for the past year, teaching kids and adults the game.
It wasnt working out here the way Id hoped, Chaulk said. I wasnt able to play for the Komets and work for Canlan with their schedule and the demands of that job. What I want to do when Im done playing is coach and teach, train kids and that sort of thing, and the market has changed here. Being in Toronto, I can build for my career after hockey, and continue to play (in Italy).
While some of the Komets players have expressed concerns about the teams move this summer into Central Hockey League, which will allow fewer veteran players and necessitate lower salaries, Chaulk, 33, said that didnt figure greatly into his decision.
It didnt have a lot to do with the Komets, really, Chaulk said. Im trying to get ready for life after hockey, and I dont want to be in the same position Im in now when Im 35 or 36, needing to play the game for a job. As much as Id love to keep doing what Im doing with the Komets until Im 50, its not possible.
Chaulk had a career-best 27 goals and 85 points in 71 games last season, when the Komets won a third straight IHL championship.
There were so many times throughout the year when I can remember there being rough spots and he was the guy to step up, pan everything out and make it good again, forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said.
Chaulk has played for Alleghe before – in 2006-07 – but that one-year departure was ignited by a contract dispute with the Komets.
We didnt want to leave then, said Chaulk, who added that Komets ownership did everything it could to keep him this time, but the allure of teaching in Toronto was too much.
I cant even count how many teams are there. If I can use those five or six months in the offseason to market myself and get myself ready for when hockey (playing) is finished, and be home where my family is, too, it seems like this will be a good opportunity.
Chaulks departure signals the Komets are poised for an overhaul in personnel. But it doesnt mean weve seen the last of Chaulk.
I fully expect Colin Chaulk will again play here in Fort Wayne, Franke said. I think he will end his career here, whenever that is. And I really feel that he will retire a Komet. You never know, there may be another spot in the organization here when hes done as a player.