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Late June is when Komets coach Al Sims is essentially working for VisitFortWayne.com, talking up the Summit City's attributes more than anyone who works for the Chamber of Commerce, too.
Though the Komets have yet to announce any returning players, Sims has started recruiting new ones, talking to Canadian junior and American college coaches to see if they have any suggestions. He's also hearing lots of congratulations for Fort Wayne's Central Hockey League title.
Though he may talk to these coaches once or twice each summer, it's easy to develop relationships over a number of years.
"It's an enjoyable process to talk to everybody again," Sims said. "It's like networking. With most of the people, we talk a little bit about how things are going before we ever start to talk about players."
Because the ECHL has a limit of four veterans who have played 260 regular-season pro games, Sims expects his lineup to get younger next year. The ECHL doesn't maintain a minimum rookie requirement, but Sims still expects to teach a few players how to shave next season.
One of his biggest selling points is the success the Komets had last season with rookies like Tom Mele, Bryant Molle, David Maggio, Stephon Thorne, J.M. Rizk and David Starenky.
"We're hoping for more finds like that this year," Sims said. "By the end of the season, they were really good contributors."
Despite moving to a higher level of Class AA hockey, Sims said he's sticking to his usual summer routine. He always tried to attract players from bigger schools and bigger junior leagues, but they were usually more interested in signing with the NHL-affiliated ECHL rather than the CHL or the IHL.
"We're in a league now where we're not losing people to that any more," Sims said. "You should be getting a better brand of player this year and hopefully that will make for a more-competitive training camp and more-competitive decisions. We're still trying to get the best player we can, and we're selling our success and the building to get people excited."
He's also talking bi-weekly with last year's players to see if there's anyone they want to suggest for training camp.
Something that could affect the roster in a dramatic way is possible NHL labor problems. The collective bargaining agreement ends Sept. 15, meaning younger players could get sent to the American Hockey League and then players from there to the ECHL. That could mean a dramatic improvement on the ice, especially early in the season.
The Komets are looking for a possible affiliation with an AHL team, but an NHL stoppage would affect everyone.
There's also a higher salary cap in the ECHL, $12,400 with a floor of $8,900. The CHL salary cap was $10,500 per week.
Sims has done this before in the ECHL. He was the first coach of the expansion Reading Royals in 2000-01. The Royals finished 27-36-0 and missed the playoffs.
"Nobody knew about us," Sims said. "It was harder for us to get players against more established teams, but we were competitive. I don't think that experience is going to hurt or help me in this situation."