Defenseman Erik Bradford will be returning to the Kalamazoo Wings for his third season.
Bradford, 28, signed with the K-Wings for the 2021-22 season and played in 54 games with the team, scoring 19 goals and adding 32 assists. During that season, Bradford split his time with the K-Wings and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, where he played in 16 games.
After winning the team MVP award at the conclusion of that season, Bradford returned to the K-Wings last season, with a two-way contract with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. Bradford was only in Kalamazoo for 8 games (1 g, 3 a), and spent most of the season with Cleveland playing in 38 games (2g, 2a).
Returning to Kalamazoo wasn’t a hard decision for Bradford, and his reasoning is simple: he believes in the program and the people within the K-Wings organization.
“(They) are willing to do whatever it takes to provide us with anything we need to better our chances for on–ice success”, Bradford said. “The way the community and our fans support us is truly second to none. They’ve embraced me, supported me and driven me to become a better person and player. Which in turn has motivated me to come back here year after year and do my best to be part of the solution and get this proud organization back to where we all know it can be,” he said.
Entering his 10th season of professional hockey, Bradford has played for 10 different teams in the ECHL and AHL combined. While his goal is that of every hockey player, the NHL, Bradford just takes things year by year, or zip code, for that matter.
“I think for me the big thing is to just be where my feet are,” Bradford said. “Worrying and wishing about hypotheticals are only going to negatively affect the team and myself personally.”
What he can control, however, is being the best person and teammate he can be.
“If I can do that, I know I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the season, be proud and hopefully the results will speak for themselves.”
Even though Bradford spent the majority of last season in Cleveland, that didn’t stop him from watching the K-Wings from afar.
“I was always keeping tabs on the team, checking in with guys on how things were going and watching any game I could when I wasn’t playing,” Bradford said. “I take a lot of pride in being a part of this organization and even when I haven’t been there every day; I care a lot about what is going on and how my teammates are doing.”
Late last season, the K-Wings made a flurry of trades and roster moves that are helping shape the upcoming season. Bradford is excited about the additions.
“We have brought in a lot of young talented players that are hungry to prove themselves,” Bradford said. “It seems like our coaches have found a good mix of that and with hard work and determination it certainly feels like we will be a very dangerous team.”
Entering this season, Bradford is approaching a few career milestones, something that he says he doesn’t pay attention to. On the horizon are 100 career goals, 400 ECHL games and 500 games as a professional.
“Maybe when I’m done playing (hopefully never), I can sit back and reminisce, but for now it’s all about staying present and finding ways to improve my game,” Bradford said.
Milestones aside, Bradford continues to feel blessed for his hockey journey.
“(I try) not to focus on all the what if’s and ups and downs which have led me to where I am today,” Bradford said. “It’s about continuing to be grateful, work hard and never take this journey I am on for granted. This game is so special.”
On the ice, Bradford said that he can guarantee fans that he will give all he has to get the team into the playoffs and make them proud as they chase the Kelly Cup.
Bradford said that he has done a lot of growing up in Kalamazoo over the past couple of years that has helped shape him and become the person he is today.
“I will be forever grateful, and with that being said, myself along with the help of Chris Cadeau (Director of Public Relations and Broadcaster) and other front office members are putting together some exciting things for the kids in this city,” Bradford said. “Hopefully when it all comes together it will provide the kids with an amazing experience and brighten their lives”.
By: Mark C. McGlothlen