Rival player named assistant coach for K-Wings

KALAMAZOO — If Kalamazoo Wings fans thought they had seen the last of Fort Wayne Komets player Colin Chaulk, they need to think again.

After spending 10 of his 15 professional seasons with the Komets, where he was a part of six championships, and being a major thorn in the side of the K-Wings for years, Chaulk retired this past April. But that doesn’t mean that fans have seen the last of Chaulk: in fact, they will be seeing much more of him this season.

In a move that caught many by surprise, the K-Wings announced that Chaulk had been hired as head coach Nick Bootland’s assistant for the upcoming season.

During his years as a Komet, Chaulk was a player that fans loved to hate, but he is confident they will warm up to him in his new role.

“They (the fans) can expect someone that’s fair, honorable, loyal and expects hard work (from the players),” Chaulk said. “Whatever needs to be done, it will be done to make sure that all excuses are taken away when the puck drops.”

Discussions with Chaulk actually began last summer but ended before the season started. Once Chaulk announced his retirement, Bootland approached him again.

“Things were cooling off with Fort Wayne and they were deciding to go forward in a different direction, so I decided to go for it,” Chaulk said.

After several meetings and phone calls, Chaulk was sold on the idea. “I guess since early spring we have been communicating back and forth, and every time we talked on the phone, it was a 30-40 minute conversation,” he added.

“The time I spent with Jim (Burlew, General Manager) and Nick was very impressive,” Chaulk said. “Their vision and how they run their business is similar to how I believe things should be done. I feel like we are compatible, and I am excited to get going.”

After being the “face” of the Komets organization for the past 10 years, Chaulk understands why fans there are a bit perplexed by the news, especially with the Komets hiring a new coach in early June.

“It wasn’t like I called the team around the corner to see if they were willing to give me an opportunity,” he said. “They (the Komets) didn’t accept an interview from me,” he said. “I guess my name was in the hat, so to speak, but I don’t think I made the short list.”

Chaulk does not harbor any hard feelings, however, and said that he is not one to look behind; rather, he chooses to push ahead and move on.

“I definitely do not want to be where I am not wanted,” he added.

Bootland and Chaulk have been crossing paths for many years, starting back when both were players in the OHL. Both men played under former K-Wings coach Mark Reeds, and both were named as captains of their respective squads.

Chaulk recalls Bootland, as a player, being “a big horse, a big body” on the ice. “He was an offensive threat who would put the puck in the net, beat the hell out of you, and could block a shot,” Chaulk said with a laugh.

“I remember him being a fierce competitor and the healthy battles we had many times a year,” Chaulk continued. “I am excited and glad to be on his side now.”

Bootland had high praise for Chaulk, as well. “After he (Colin) announced his retirement, we (K-Wings) pursued him for this role because of all the intangibles he brings,” Bootland said in a press release. “Colin has always been a student of the game, which is evident with the accolades he has earned as a top defensive forward many times throughout his career.”

“I’m excited to get to work,” Chaulk said. “I’m excited to be a team member, a helping hand for Nick, and ready to get the team together and start winning some games.”

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