Allison signs on with Komets

You get the feeling Dave Allison likes a challenge.
The Fort Frances native inked a one-year deal–with an option–last week to become head coach of the Fort Wayne Komets, an expansion team in the United Hockey League.
Although an expansion draft gave the Komets some “pretty good players,” Allison said he’ll have to man the phones for hours on end looking for more before the season starts in late October.
“We’re pretty much starting from scratch,” he admitted from his new office in Fort Wayne last Thursday.
“It’s like when I started in this business 10 years ago in Roanoke,” he continued. “You’re just on the phone looking for players and you’re looking to give players an opportunity to move on to the next level.”
One might think a new coach with a first-year expansion team is a precarious mix but Allison has proved that theory wrong in the past.
After a brief stint behind the bench of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, he took the job as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins (an expansion team in the International Hockey League) three years ago and piloted them to a 40-30-12 mark and the Turner Cup playoffs.
Then the very next season, he had the Griffins in position for another playoff berth with a 30-25-7 record before being relieved of his duties midway through the campaign after a fallout with then-GM Gerry McNamara.
Without a pro coaching job, Allison turned his attention to amateur hockey with the first-year Fort Frances Canadians Midget “AA” team, helping them to a winning record while sharing his insights with the young players.
But that was then and this is now.
Allison said he’s completely focused on giving the fans of Fort Wayne an entertaining–and winning–hockey team.
“Right now, our focus is fielding a very good team here and see the kids improve through the course of the winter,” he noted. “We’ll see how things go and I’ll make a decision after this year.”
Allison said he wasn’t sure as to what the future would hold, and didn’t expect his wife Marion and their three daughters, Avery, Olivia, and Isabella, to make the trip to Fort Wayne for the 25-week season.
“It will be 10 years coaching and I’ll find out how it goes, and if we decide to relocate or do something else in Fort Frances,” he reasoned. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Still, Allison is quite happy to be in Fort Wayne, which is one of the larger UHL markets.
“Fort Wayne is a great place that is just smack dab in the middle of so many IHL and AHL teams,” he noted. “It’s a great place for kids’ development and it’s an inexpensive place to live.
“They’ve got three TV stations, two newspapers–it’s a major market with a minor league team,” he added.
Allison said the economics of the IHL dictated Fort Wayne couldn’t compete with some of the other teams, much like the Montreal Expos in major league baseball, and so it’s switched to a more even playing field in the UHL.
He’s hoping to turn that even playing field into a playoff berth.
Just another challenge in the life of a pro hockey coach–and one Allison expects to meet.