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Newly re-signed defenseman Brent Henley has played 181 regular-season games in the ECHL, the most of any player on the Komets' roster so far. Many fans are wondering what the difference is between the Central Hockey League, where the Komets won the title last year, and the ECHL, which they will play in this year.
``There's no difference,'' Henley said. ``It's AA hockey. The CHL is probably a little bit older, which makes the quality of play a little better but also maybe a little slower. The younger ECHL guys haven't spent a lot of time playing pro hockey, so there's a lot of misdirected energy. The caliber of play and the quality is basically the same. When there were 80 teams in AA hockey, there was a lot of difference between the different leagues, but now there's 35. As the leagues continue to shrink, the differences even out.''
The Komets announced the signings of Henley, returning forwards J.M. Rizk, Chris Auger and rookie Matt Firman from Colgate on Wednesday. That gives them seven returning players from last year, and the Komets are still talking with forward Stephon Thorne and defenseman Frankie DeAngelis.
Komets General Manager David Franke says he likes the mix his 13-man roster has so far, mostly because the Komets know the players so well. They've been battle-tested, and they know Fort Wayne and the expectations of Komets fans and management. The new players are coming because they expect and want to win.
``The one thing we have going for us, we know the guys who are coming back,'' Franke said. ``They will compete all the time every night, and we know who they are on the ice and off the ice. Making a move like this to a different league... we know these guys and we know they can play.''
Every time they are asked, Komets players and management members say they don't believe there's much difference between the CHL and ECHL levels of play.
``The guys we've signed, they want to show this league that they are good players and they can play at this level,'' Franke said. ``We've been through the wars, and I'd rather go into battle with guys that I know than guys I don't know that well.''
Henley said the biggest difference he sees over the past 10 years is the elimination of the tweener players, those who are not rookies or veterans. The average player's career is getting shorter, he said.
``If people are concerned, if you look at what David has done so far there's a reason for everything,'' Henley said. ``He's gotten the best players so far. It's not like they are picking up third-line CHL guys to build the team around. It's the best of the best along with the core of a championship ship team. No one will know for sure until the season starts, but I'm excited to see what happens. I've been through 12 years as a pro, and I'm excited about it.''
Training camp starts Sept. 28.