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On Komets’ Trine practice, Irons’ game

November 14, 2018

ANGOLA -- It may have only been 20 to 30 people, but it’s been a long while since I’ve seen that many people go to a Komets practice and stay the whole time, as happened today at Thunder Ice Arena at Trine University. 

It used to be that you could show up at Memorial Coliseum and take in a Komets practice, but insurance and security has made that a thing of the past. 

It’s pretty infrequently that the Komets don’t have an option for ice in Fort Wayne -- either at the Coliseum or the SportONE/Parkview Icehouse -- as is the case this week. I can tell you they feel this is definitely a good option for them now.

The Komets skated without Shawn Szydlowski, Jake Kamrass and Justin Hodgman. General manager David Franke said they all were ill. Marco Roy also wasn’t there; he’s still in the concussion protocol from the hit he took from Rapid City’s Adam Marsh on Friday, which garnered Marsh a two-game suspension.

Video from practice is above. 

On another topic, Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of legendary Komets goaltender Robbie Irons’ lone NHL game.

Here is the story The Journal Gazette published on this back in 2001 ...

For three and a half minutes in 1968, Robbie Irons was all NHL.

It was a brief moment, to be sure. About 200 seconds -- the shortest career in NHL history -- but one great memory for a goaltender who grew up dreaming of heroes he’d eventually back up.

“Not a long moment, but one I’m proud of,” says Irons.

In three quick seasons, Irons, a Toronto kid who loved playing net, was nearly in New York, almost in Omaha, briefly in Fort Wayne, very much in St. Louis and once in an NHL regular-season game. He would have been there longer if it hadn’t been for Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall.

Irons backed up both after his world changed with a break of the arm and a trade out of nowhere.

“That’s hockey,” he says. “And that’s all my lifestyle was for a long time.”

Irons was barely 18 and barely a prospect with Omaha, a New York Rangers affiliate, when he snapped his arm in a baseball tournament one summer after impressing a few scouts during juniors. The Rangers told him he could show up when he was healed. But by the time he called Omaha in early November, its lineup was set. Fort Wayne had a working agreement and Irons had a chance.

A summer later he was in a completely different world -- one part of a four-player trade that would make him one of three young goaltenders in St. Louis. They were all behind Plante and Hall.

“Idols of mine,” Irons says. “It was pretty tough to think you were ever going to beat those two out. So you had to learn from them and wait for your opportunity.”

Irons watched, waited and wondered if he’d ever see the ice.

For better than two years, he’d spend two months in St. Louis, then four back in Kansas City, with the farm team, and then back in St. Louis, working exhibition games and backing up two of the NHL’s best.

Until ...

“We were playing in New York, I was on the bench and Hall is in the net,” says Irons, one of more than 100 Komets to reach the NHL. “About 10 minutes into the game, there was a goal scored on Glenn, he got upset, said something to the referee.”

Out went Hall, in went Irons, into action went coach Scotty Bowman.

“Scotty had Plante getting dressed so he delayed and fooled around and delayed the game as much as he could,” Irons said. “The referee finally made them start it. Before you know it, Plante was ready so I came out. It was about 3 1/2 minutes.”

Irons would never make it on the ice again for a regular season game. The NHL would never allow a coach to stall and pull a goalie onto the ice the way Bowman did that night.

Call it the Bowman-Irons rule.

“Bowman was screwing around and delaying and all this stuff,” Irons says. “Tensions start building up. The crowd starts getting antsy, everyone starts hooting and hollering, next thing you know it’s a big deal.”

Irons dressed for about 65 games and played in eight exhibitions before heading back to Fort Wayne the summer of 1970 after Bowman left St. Louis and Irons’ contract ended.

“I gained a lot of experience from it and I gained confidence in myself I could do it,” says Irons, who played 12 seasons with the Komets. “I had an NHL opportunity. I had a shutout. I did what I had to do. That’s all you could ask for.”

jcohn@jg.net

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