Len Thornson, ‘greatest Komet to ever play the game,’ dies at 88


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne Komets legend Len Thornson has passed away after a lengthy illness, according to the organization. He was 88 years old.

“We’ve lost the greatest Komet to ever play the game in Fort Wayne,” said David Franke, the Komets’ General Manager. “80-years-old is a long life for anybody, but still when the reality sets in that Lenny won’t be here anymore, it’s definitely sad and he needs to be recognized as the great person and a great player that he was.”

On the ice, Franke described Thornson as the “Wayne Gretzky of the International Hockey League (IHL).”

Thornson starred for the Komets for 12 consecutive seasons, scoring 412 goals, which is the second most in team history, and set franchise records of 807 assists and 1,219 points. He also collected seven IHL Most Valuable Player awards, led the league in scoring three times and led the Komets to two Turner Cup Championships in 1963 and 1965. 

In 1997, the Hockey News named Thornson the IHL’s Greatest Player of All-time. He was inducted in the Komet Hall of Fame and his number 11 retired in 1987.

“He was the measuring sticks for all the players that came after,” said Franke. “His records will never be broken as far as the the total point that he approved in his career. It’s just, it’s sad. It’s sad and we won’t see him at the hockey games anymore.”

Not only was Thorson a star on the ice, but Franke also applauded the legend for who he was after his hockey career.

“There wasn’t anybody any better off the ice than Lenny,” said Franke. “His legacy is play the game the right way, live your life the right way and make your home and decide that’s going to be your home and make the most of it. That’s what Lenny did… it’s a sad time, but a joyous time also, as we reflect back on his life, as a player, and as a person.”

Franke said the Komets plan to honor Thornson before their game on Friday night with a video tribute on the scoreboard. The puck drops at 8 p.m. against the Kalamazoo Wings.

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