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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Jack Loser's life behind the wheel with the Komets

<p>News-Sentinel file photo</p> <p>Jack Loser</p>

News-Sentinel file photo

Jack Loser

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

There lots of laughs and some scary times on the road

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 12:42 pm
Over 39 seasons, Jack Loser  (pronounced "Loh-shur") lived a lot of Komets history as the team's primary bus driver. "When they win it can be quite enjoyable," Loser said in 1993. "They play cards and watch movies, laugh and joke and tease each other and generally have a good time. When they lose, it's fairly quiet and everything is a lot more subdued. Sometimes they play cards, but most of the discussions are real quiet. There's nobody shouting out."

Loser, who retired in 1999, passed away Monday at age of 82.  He also had season tickets for many years and was the guy in the old Section 9 who often imitated Komets forward Steve Fletcher during the national anthems. One night, he had all the fans in the section flexing their shoulders and rolling their necks in time with Fletcher.

"We call it doing the Fletch," Loser said. "He's never said a word to me about it. We do it behind his back so he's never seen it. He's a great guy anyway."

Loser became become part of the team and even skated with the Komets during practices on the road sometimes. During all the years that he drove, the Komets never missed a game once they left Memorial Coliseum, though one time they got to Detroit only to find out their flight to Kansas City was canceled.

"When they were in the IHL, I went to every single rink with my dad," his son Eric said. "He would ask Robbie (Laird) or Al (Sims) if I could go, and sometimes they'd say no because they were taking extra players. I was with them when they went to Pittsburgh (in 1988). I can tell you that they were coming back, and they didn't have GPS then and Bob Chase had the map and the next thing you know they were lost. Then dad realized Bob had the map upside down."

On the road, Loser watched the game until the start of the third period — sometimes from the bench — and then he'd leave to start the bus. He'd then lock the bus and go watch the rest of the game.

He had a million stories about driving his favorite team to their games.

Loser recalled once trying to drive down an icy Lansing, Mich., highway when the bus was sideswiped by a pickup. After stopping, Loser tried to resume the trip by driving up a high embankment, but the back end slid around and the bus completed a 360-degree turn.

"There were a few guys saying prayers then," Loser said, laughing. He completed the trip without further incident.

Another time they were coming home from Port Huron, dodging abandoned cars on the highway.

"I didn't dare stop because we would have gotten stuck," he said.

Once, after Loser had dropped the team off at the coliseum, he was headed home, taking the exit from Coliseum Boulevard onto U.S. 30 when he suddenly saw a stalled car with no lights on sitting in the middle of the road. Unable to stop, Loser rammed the car and sent it flying over the hill next to the road.

"What made me so mad was I was on an exit ramp, and if I had swung off and gone over the curb, I would have rolled the bus," Loser said.

While Loser calmed down, he saw a man walking up the side of the hill toward the bus. The man had been drinking and had lost a wheel to his car. He walked down the hill to go to the bathroom and looked up to see his car flying overhead.

"He was drunk out of his gourd," Loser said. "The wreck jammed my door shut, so he couldn't get at me, and I had to wait for the firemen to get me out."

Another time on the way to Des Moines, the road was so icy the bus kept sliding to the side of the road, where it would gain traction at the edge of the grass. After driving 5 mph, eventually the Komets pulled off and got behind some salt trucks. A trip that normally took eight to 10 hours lasted 16.

There was also one night when Loser was driving during a heavy snowstorm and just missed a man standing in the middle of the road trying to flag down a ride.

On a long trip home from Minneapolis, the bus heater broke and the players bundled up against the cold. Salt was rubbed in the wound when the shivering Komets passed another bus and the driver, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, waved.

The team bus was on the way back from a game in Flint in the early 1970s when the left front wheel flew off the bus.

"Years ago we were going south after a game in Flint. It was early in the year, it was icy and snow was on the ground," broadcaster Bob Chase once recalled. "We were probably 10 miles north of the Indiana border and the left front wheel flew off the bus. At that point, the wheel got in the wheel well and the bus jumped way up in the air. It came down, and we were going sideways down the road at 65 miles an hour. I don't know how, but Jack Loser somehow got the bus under control, straightened us back out, and there we were on the berm on three wheels. It never tipped or did anything like that. They had to send a bus up for us. Now, that was a close call."

Maybe one of the best stories was this one:  this one is probably the best: "We were up at Merrillville eating lunch and then going on to Milwaukee. I was entering the expressway from the exit ramp, but a semi (driver) didn't yield when he could have. I had to brake my bus and wait until he got passed to swing in behind him. I got up to speed and went to pass him and all the guys got up on the seats and dropped their pants. I can still see that guy looking over and in every window there was a butt looking at him."

Loser rarely had trouble staying away during the long trips, but when he did, he'd ask Chase or one of the players to step up and talk to him. In an emergency, he had extra-hot cinnamon candy and an energy drink in his briefcase. Maybe because he didn't drink coffee, those usually revived him immediately.

Even after retirement, Loser attended almost every home game for years until a bad back caused him problems.

"I've gone over and helped Mom and Dad with their I-pads many times over the years," Eric said. "They'd have 50,000 windows opened up to WOWO and could never figure out why the thing worked so slowly."

Even after leaving his regular job, Loser still drove for the Komets. When Muhammad Ali visited in 2003, Loser was driving the golf cart that carried the champ around the ice.

"There are still fans to this day who would come up and call him, `Bussie,' " Eric said.


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