Bootland Bids K-Wings Adieu; Martin Tapped as New Head Coach

For nearly two decades, Nick Bootland has been a fixture in the Kalamazoo Wings organization as a player and a coach.

Bootland first joined the K-Wings during the 2003-2004 season, playing in 17 games.  The following season saw Bootland playing the entire season with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL.

Upon his return to the K-Wings in the 2005-06 season, the Bootland family made Kalamazoo home for the next 16 years.

The K-Wings recently announced that Bootland would be leaving his post as head coach and director of hockey operations to become the assistant coach for the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Before his departure, Bootland was the longest-tenured coach in professional hockey with one team.

Bootland began his professional career with the Hershey Bears in 1998 and spent four seasons playing for the team.

During his time in Kalamazoo, Bootland was named as captain of the team and was a key part of the 2005-2006 Colonial Cup Championship team before becoming the head coach in the 2008-2009 season at the age of 30.

As a player, Bootland played in 274 games (regular and postseason) with the K-Wings, scoring 153 goals and adding 145 assists during that time.

Bootland, the 20th head coach in K-Wings franchise history, coached 929 games and racked up 481 career wins with the team, which are both franchise records. Bootland led teams won four Division Championships (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14), one Conference Championship (2011-12) and qualified for the postseason nine times. In 2010-2011, in just their second season in the ECHL, Bootland guided the team to the Kelly Cup Finals, losing to the Alaska Aces in five games.

Bill Johnston, Owner of the Kalamazoo Wings, released the following statement.

“The entire Stryker – Johnston family sends their very best wishes to coach Nick Bootland, and his family, as he begins a new chapter of excellence in professional hockey leadership,” said Johnston. “Beyond our best wishes, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Nick for his exceptional dedication to the K-Wings family as well as the Kalamazoo community. The Washington Capitals organization made the right call in bringing in coach Bootland to be the assistant head coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. We will all miss coach Bootland, but we look forward to watching his continued success as an elite leader in professional hockey.“

Taking Bootland’s place is a familiar name to K-Wings fans: Joel Martin.

Martin, 39, played 15 seasons of professional hockey, nine in Kalamazoo, as a goaltender.  Martin was a part of the 2005-06 Colonial Cup Championship team.

As a player for the K-Wings, Martin has etched his name in the record books.  Martin is theK-Wings current all-time goaltending leader in career games played (422), saves (12,310), wins (229), shutouts (21), and minutes played (24,755).

In celebration of his contributions to not only the K-Wings, but also the ECHL, Martin was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame this past January.

Retiring at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, Martin was named as the assistant coach of the K-Wings.

“I’m honored to be named head coach and director of hockey operations for the Kalamazoo Wings,” Joel Martin said in a statement released by the team. “I’d first like to thank my family for their continued love and support. Next, I’d like to thank Bill Johnston and Ronda Stryker, along with Brad Vandenberg for entrusting me with the opportunity to lead this historic franchise. I look forward to working alongside Toni Will, Rob Underwood and our entire front office & Wings Event Center staff.”

Martin becomes the second assistant coach under Bootland to be named as the head coach of a professional hockey team.  Colin Chaulk (2013-2015) is the head coach for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.

Martin becomes the first black head coach in K-Wings history. In addition, Martin, along with fellow ECHL coach, Jason Payen of the Cincinnati Cyclones, are the only two black coaches in North American men’s professional hockey.

In addition, Martin is just the seventh BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) coach in North American men’s professional hockey history, Martin also joins Dirk Graham (Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, 1998-99), John Paris Jr. (Atlanta Knights, IHL, 1994-1995), Shawn Wheeler (Charlotte Checkers, ECHL, 1998-2000), Graeme Townsend (Macon Whoopee & Greensboro Generals, CHL/ECHL, 1999-2002), and Leo Thomas (Macon Mayhem, SPHL, 2018-2019).

“On behalf of the entire K-Wings professional hockey organization, Ronda and I are thrilled to welcome Joel Martin to his new role as Director of Hockey Operations and Head Coach of the K-Wings,” said Johnston in a statement released by the team. “Joel’s vast experience as a professional hockey player, combined with his ability to teach and lead, will deliver excellence to our entire organization. Joel has a detailed championship plan and we are excited to watch it unfold.“

Having played with, played for and then coaching with Bootland, Martin says he learned alot from him over the years.

“Nick Bootland’s leadership and support has prepared me for this next step, and I’m ready to get started with the team staff and players immediately,” Martin said. “Most importantly, I look forward to a great season with the best fans in the ECHL.”

By: Mark C. McGlothlen

Check Also

K-Wings take two of three last week; McCarty scores hat trick

The Kalamazoo Wings (10-9-1-0) were able to snag four out of six points this past …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *