Indiana pro hockey team gives Franke, family seventh title

As reported to C-T
For the seventh time in 31 years as majority owner of a minor league professional hockey franchise, Chillicothean and local businessman Steve Franke celebrated his team’s capture of a league championship for a seventh time last month. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets, reaching the ECHL (founded as the East Coach Hockey League in 1988-89) championship series for the first time in their nine seasons in the league, captured the loop’s title trophy – the Kelly Cup – three games to one over the South Carolina Stingrays. The July 2 clincher at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum came by While it was the first ECHL crown for the franchise of which team chairman/CEO Franke – owner of Chillicothe’s MidWest Quality Gloves, Inc./MidWest Gloves and Gear, his three brothers, and, now, son Stephan (seen holding the Kelly Cup with his father at a family celebration) share ownership, it was preceded by a half-dozen other league titles during the organization’s existence in various pro hockey minor leagues (Central, United, and International) during the Franke family’s ownership tenure. Because of the delayed start to the past season, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, chairman Franke noted it was the first time the franchise had played games during June or July. The Komets won the first game of the best-of-5 series on the road, then swept games three and four on home ice to close out the series and earn the title. To reach the league finals, they had defeated the Allen Americans in the ECHL’s Western Conference finals after barely surviving a first-round series against Wichita (Kan.) with a 4-3 overtime victory on home ice in the fifth and deciding game. ( PHOTO SUPPLIED / STEVE FRANKE )

For the seventh time in 31 years as majority owner of a minor league professional hockey franchise, Chillicothean and local businessman Steve Franke celebrated his team’s capture of a league championship for a seventh time last month. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets, reaching the ECHL (founded as the East Coach Hockey League in 1988-89) championship series for the first time in their nine seasons in the league, captured the loop’s title trophy – the Kelly Cup – three games to one over the South Carolina Stingrays. The July 2 clincher at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum came by While it was the first ECHL crown for the franchise of which team chairman/CEO Franke – owner of Chillicothe’s MidWest Quality Gloves, Inc./MidWest Gloves and Gear, his three brothers, and, now, son Stephan (seen holding the Kelly Cup with his father at a family celebration) share ownership, it was preceded by a half-dozen other league titles during the organization’s existence in various pro hockey minor leagues (Central, United, and International) during the Franke family’s ownership tenure. Because of the delayed start to the past season, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, chairman Franke noted it was the first time the franchise had played games during June or July. The Komets won the first game of the best-of-5 series on the road, then swept games three and four on home ice to close out the series and earn the title. To reach the league finals, they had defeated the Allen Americans in the ECHL’s Western Conference finals after barely surviving a first-round series against Wichita (Kan.) with a 4-3 overtime victory on home ice in the fifth and deciding game. ( PHOTO SUPPLIED / STEVE FRANKE )