Michael Franke Obituary: Fort Wayne Komet President died at 63

Michael Franke Obituary

Michael Franke Obituary: Michael Franke,63, President and Co-owner of Fort Wayne Komet died after a lengthy battle with cancer on December 10, 2023, at Stillwater Hospice in Fort Wayne.

Michael and his brothers Steve, David, Richard, and Bill purchased the Komets franchise in 1990. Michael was a Mad Anthony Red Coat recipient in 2017, along with his brothers and Komets Co-owner Scott Sproat.

Komets, general manager David Franke, one of Michael Franke’s brothers, said in a statement. “Komet hockey was a part of Michael’s life as a young boy. Becoming the Komets president was a lifelong dream he realized in the summer of 1990.”

Earlier that year, the original Komets franchise moved to New York. The Franke brothers – Michael, Bill, Richard, Steve, and David – purchased a franchise from Flint, Michigan, and immediately moved the team to Fort Wayne.

Michael Franke also played a key role in sustaining the United Hockey League, which the Komets joined in 1999, as well as reviving the International Hockey League and merging the Central Hockey League with the ECHL, where the Komets play today.

Franke, who had been in charge of the business side of the hockey team since his family bought it in 1990, battled skin cancer for decades and T-cell lymphoma in recent years, and his health took a downturn following knee replacement surgery last spring. He spent many of his final weeks in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, hospital that specialized in cancer treatment, though he was recently moved to a Fort Wayne hospice facility.

Franke helped save professional hockey after former owner David Welker moved the International Hockey League franchise, founded in 1952, to Albany, N.Y. Lifelong fans of the Komets, the Franke brothers acted swiftly to buy the Flint Spirits, move them to Fort Wayne and acquire the Komets’ name and logo to ensure the continuity of professional hockey at Memorial Coliseum.

Stephen Franke, the owner of MidWest Gloves & Gear, which is based in Chillicothe, Missouri, provided the majority of the money. David Franke became general manager and took over the hockey operations. Michael Franke, whose background was in radio and advertising, took over the business side. Brothers Bill and Richard Franke were also shareholders, though Richard died in June.

In the 33 years since the Frankes took over the Komets, there have been changes to management, including adding Scott Sproat to the ownership group so he could work alongside Michael Franke in managing the business aspects. But having Michael, David, and Stephen as the triumvirate atop the Komets had become synonymous with Komets hockey.

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