Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Komets hire Gary Graham as new coach

The Fort Wayne Komets have hired former assistant Gary Graham as their new head coach.

Graham replaces Al Sims, who retired this offseason after leading the Komets to four championships and on a journey through three leagues -- the now-defunct International Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and now the ECHL.

Graham, 34, is a Fort Wayne native who comes to Fort Wayne after coaching in the Southern Professional Hockey League, winning a championship in Pensacola. He also had been a high school coach, a coach with the Indiana Junior Ice program and an assistant with the Komets.

Media coverage
News-Sentinel: New Komets coach anxious to catch up
News-Sentinel column: Komets reach for Graham, but not by much
News Sentinel: Komets name Gary Graham head coach
Journal-Gazette: Komets coach comes home
Journal-Gazette: Players approve of Komets' new coach
Journal-Gazette: Komets hire Gary Graham
Team official press release

The official release:

Fort Wayne, IN --- The Komets announced Tuesday that Gary Graham has been selected as the next head coach of the Fort Wayne ECHL club.  The announcement was made during a press conference at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.  As per team policy, terms of the contract will not be disclosed.

“I’m extremely proud of this opportunity the Komet organization has given me," Graham said.  "We will begin a new chapter of Komet hockey with a lot of new faces, but the identity of this team will be simple; total commitment to getting better each and every day.  We will bring a fast, young, hungry team into the Coliseum that our great fans can be proud of. There is no other team in hockey I would rather be coaching than the Fort Wayne Komets.”

Graham becomes the 28th person to handle head coaching duties with the Komets since the team was established in Fort Wayne in 1952.  Graham replaces Al Sims, who announced his retirement after the 2012-13 season.  "Gary is the right coach at the right time for the Komets," Komet president Michael Franke said. "He knows the Komet way of doing business and will be a tremendous asset to the Komet organization."

Graham is returning to the Komets after guiding Pensacola last season to the Ice Flyer's first Southern Professional Hockey League Championship.  The Ice Flyer's finished 2012-13 with a 33-18-5 record and 71 points, two points shy of capturing the regular season title.  It was the first time Pensacola skated to a regular season winning percentage over .600 (.634) since joining the SPHL in 2009-10.  

The 2013 SPHL Presidents' Cup Title was Graham's fourth career league crown.  Before his stint with Pensacola, Graham collected three league championships in four seasons as an assistant coach with the Komets (earned league titles in 2009, 2010, 2012). 

"Gary's tremendous work ethic, knowledge and experience in preparing players to play was a huge factor for me in picking him as our next coach," Komet general manager David Franke said.  "He pays attention to detail and teaches players not only on the ice but also in video sessions.  I'm extremely excited to work with Gary as we prepare to assemble the Komet team for the 2013-14 ECHL season."

Prior to Graham's first tenure with the Komets, the Fort Wayne native enjoyed success as head coach of the Indiana Jr. Ice Tier 1 team, guiding the Ice to a 38-17-3 record in the Midwest Elite League during 2008-09 before serving as associate coach for the USHL Clark Cup Champion Indiana Ice.

Graham, 34, majored in Exercise Science at Ball State University and resides in Fort Wayne with his children Connor and Isabella. 

Gary Graham coaching record
Regular Season                                             Playoff Results
Season Club                         League     W L   T/OTL Pts  
2008-09 Fort Wayne (AC) IHL         46 18  12         104    **Championship ( IHL Turner Cup)
2009-10 Fort Wayne (AC) IHL         50 21    5         105  Championship (IHL Turner Cup)
2010-11 Fort Wayne (AC) CHL         31 27    8           70  Second Round
2011-12 Fort Wayne (AC) CHL         40 19    7           87   *Championship (CHL Presidents’ Cup)
2012-13 Pensacola                 SPHL        33 18    5           71  Championship (SPHL Presidents' Cup)
(AC)- assistant coach
*-Division titles
**-Regular season title

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