Chris Auger, an alternate captain with the Komets, sat down with The Journal Gazette's Justin A. Cohn to discuss the expectations of the team's demanding fans.
Fort Wayne (15-11-8) is on a 4-0-3 run -- click here to read today's story -- heading into Wednesday's game at Kalamazoo, Mich.
Here's the question and answer ...
COHN: So, do you read the comments left in the Journal Gazette's Ice Chips blog (www.journalgazette.net/section/blogs11) or just hear the fans in the stands?
AUGER: I'd never personally read the blog before this week, but my family reads it and I'll get tidbits from them. Out of curiosity from the comments I'd seen, I got on and looked at it and was taken aback by some of the stuff being said about players on the team. It's an eye opener. The fan support is tremendous in Fort Wayne, just tremendous. But I'd never seen that aspect of it.
COHN: Do you hear that kind of stuff – berating of players and such – during games at Memorial Coliseum?
AUGER: There's a section of the rink in the way end that you can hear them constantly, and they're pretty ruthless toward our own guys. At the end of games last year, there weren't many wins, and the comments directed at players personally, like calling them explicit words, well, you wouldn't expect to hear that stuff from your own fans. Boos come with the game, but some of the attacks are out of bounds. I saw Colin Chaulk get in heated arguments with fans behind our own bench.
COHN: You realize, there's a vocal minority that doesn't necessarily speak for the entire fan base, right?
AUGER: Absolutely, I know that's true. A lot of guys who haven't been here as long as me, though, they see and hear stuff and they think our fans hate us and ask, 'Why? We're a good team. We're in the thick of things.' On the whole, we have such a good rapport with fans in the community. I had a great experience with fans at an appointment today. They told me their kids were such huge fans and coming Friday. I don't want that lost in this. The majority's voice gets lost by the minority.
COHN: Not saying I agree with them, but some fans have been particularly hard on Simon Danis-Pepin and captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock. What do you say to that?
AUGER: I don't know what more they want from either one. Danis-Pepin, they assume because he's 6-foot-7, he has to be tough as nails and fighting everyone. He's our best defensive defenseman. He kills power plays, for the full two minutes, against the top lines in the league. We can't lose that and have him in the penalty box. As for Schrocky, it's absolutely crazy to demand a guy fight more than he has. The body can't take it. And as for him being captain, we, the players, wanted him to be the captain. He was the right guy to take over our dressing room. The support he has from us has enabled him to play his game. Harping on him to score more goals is uncalled for, too. He plays the way we need him to. You're not dressing a 10th forward to just run around, (fight) and do that type of stuff anymore. Remember that line brawl with Bloomington a couple years ago? That's what everyone was expecting (last week). They wanted goalie fights. Against Bloomington, we got three suspensions out of that. We're already short-handed. Getting the points is the most important thing right now."
COHN: I was just watching a ridiculous line brawl from the Federal League that took 20 minutes to sort out. (Editor's note: Click here to see the brawl. And Fort Wayne's Mike Kellermeyer is coaching Danville.) It does seem some fans here want that more than victories.
AUGER: It demeans the sport and what we're here for. The ECHL is a developmental league. Guys in this league want to work our way up to the AHL and then the NHL. It's not the Southern League or the Federal League, a show on the ice, fighting, pure entertainment. There is an entertainment aspect, but it is our careers and you have to look at the other side. The majority of guys here are young players trying to get to the next level. I don't think AHL teams are impressed if you start a brawl.
COHN: Do you think the Komets' style of play is as fast-paced and exciting as promised in the summer?
AUGER: That's a tough question to answer. It's not the wide-open hockey that most people interpreted when we said 'fast paced.' We're getting to the point where we are starting to establish our style. We want to be a puck possession team. We aren't as fast as at the start of the year, but there's a lot of entertainment. We have Brandon Marino, the leading scorer in the league, and Scott Fleming, the leading rookie. They make things happen on a regular basis. I would love to play a running game and go end-to-end all the time, but there's no recipe for success there.
COHN: At least five players this season have asked to be traded. Why are we to believe there won't be more?
AUGER: In the dressing room, there's not one person unhappy anymore. You can sense it. There was tension in the room, negativity surrounding our dressing room before. People have each other's back now. I know people ask, 'Why don't you fight more?' But it's a group of people who truly care about each other. Jace Coyle got called up the other day and we're all truly pleased that happened. I hope that the rest of our player movement is only going to be through call-ups. Hockey throws curveballs at you. I'm not saying there won't be trades. There could be. You always want to upgrade your team.