Kaleigh Schrock might be the biggest longshot ever to make the Fort Wayne Komets Hall of Fame. That’s kind of cool because everything he accomplished during his playing career was about overcoming incredible odds.
Schrock probably never should have had a hockey career. No, just not a pro hockey career or a minor league career, but a hockey career in general because there were always too many things going against him. First off, he started skating later than most, and then got cut from his first McMillen Park Ice Arena travel squad at age 8. He was crushed, but as he did dozens of times after fights, Schrock picked himself up and never backed down. He worked on his skating and became one of the fastest skaters in the building and the next year made the team.
There are dozens of examples during his career when he got knocked onto his keister but continued to come back. He never fought opponents who were intimidated by his 180 pounds, mostly because he never seemed to care how big they were, and they were always much bigger. They probably figured this was going to be easy, but it was too late by the time they realized how much Schrock fought with abandon. He was always swinging up and knocking them down. He wasn't expected to make the team as a rookie; he sure wasn't supposed to play a big role on two championship teams; and no one expected him to last six years or become the captain and face of the franchise.
When he first signed with the Komets on June 10, 2009, Schrock was an afterthought in the announcement to the re-signing of defenseman Brandon Warner. As a Division III player out of Neumann College, Schrock was known as a hustler, but even that wasn't likely to be enough. He'd be competing in training camp against Canadian junior or NCAA Division I grads, and there were also 11 returning players from a championship team. It didn't matter that he was the captain of a national championship team, one that was ranked No. 12 going into the national tournament. Schrock was a footnote to the training camp roster, but what gave him a chance to make the team was the way he worked.
"As a captain, one of the things I try to do is make people around me work harder," he said in 2009. "I know my own work ethic, but if I can go out there and work hard and make the people around better, that's my job." And that's what he was great at. In his last exhibition game as a rookie, Schrock made the team by hustling all over the ice, scoring a goal and getting in two fights.
That's the way Schrock’s entire career should be looked at, nothing left behind and no regrets. He accomplished some amazing individual things, but always for the betterment of the team. Schrock finished with 439 games and 909 penalty minutes as a Komet, just missing joining a list of Guy Dupuis, Dale Baldwin, Colin Chaulk, Robbie Laird, Cal Purinton, Terry Pembroke, Dave Norris and Kevin Bertram, who played 400 games and reached 1,000 penalty minutes.
With 60 games, Schrock ranked 11th on the K's all-time playoff games played list, beating out such legends as Laird, Barry Scully, Reg Primeau and P.C. Drouin.
On December 26, 2013, the Komets were 11-9-4 and Mickey Lang and Mike Vaskivou had just abandoned the team. That night the season turned around and the entire mood of the team raised about three notches when Schrock was named team captain during a night practice. The Komets went 73-33-14 (67 percent) overall and 4714-3 (76 percent) at home with Schrock wearing the C over the next season and a half. Those are incredible team numbers, numbers that prove Schrock was more than just a fighter.
"I don't think there will ever be another Komet who cares as much about winning or the organization as I do," Schrock said the day he retired in 2015. "It's time to see what life is like after hockey. I feel like I had the best job in Fort Wayne the last six years, and that's going to be so hard for me to leave." But the impact of his career has never left as he inspired and later coached hundreds of Fort Wayne kids to believe they had a chance at a hockey career if they just played and wanted it hard enough. Just like him, they could maybe accomplish anything. Nothing left behind, and certainly no regrets.