Kalamazoo, MI- The Kalamazoo Wings, proud member of the ECHL, three-time defending North Division Champions and National Hockey League affiliate to the Vancouver Canucks, announce the signings of forwards Aaron Clarke, Kory Karlander, goaltender Joel Martin and defenseman Sam Ftorek (fuh-TOR-ick); per team policy, the terms of the contracts will be undisclosed.
After posting 50 points in 34 games (16 goals, 34 assists) with the Belfast Giants (EIHL), Clarke returns to Kalamazoo, where he played for the K-Wings during the 2010-11 campaign.
A six-year pro, Clarke, who was a midseason acquisition two seasons ago, helped the K-Wings claim their first ECHL Eastern Conference title.
“Aaron is a player that competes a high level every time he is on the ice,” said Nick Bootland, director of hockey operations and head coach. “During our run to the Kelly Cup Finals, he (Clarke) demonstrated that he can help our team in every facet.”
The native of Peterborough, Ontario began his pro career with the Wheeling Nailers during the 2007-08 season. Before turning pro, Clarke split his collegiate career playing two seasons at Niagara University and two years with Robert Morris University.
Returning to Kalamazoo for his seventh season will be Karlander, who has been an assistant captain with the K-Wings for five of those seasons, including the 2005-06 season, where Karlander played a pivotal role alongside then team captain and current director of hockey operations and head coach, Nick Bootland in guiding the K-Wings to their 2005-06 Colonial Cup championship, the team’s third title in the organization’s history.
“Karlander has the ability to make players around him better,” said Bootland. “He (Karlander) is a reliable two-way player that exemplifies what being a K-Wing is all about.”
With over 1,000 games played in his career, Karlander is entering his 18th season as a professional. Karlander has a unique status as the only K-Wings player to represent the organization in every league Kalamazoo has participated in, including the original IHL.
In addition to playing in North America, Kory has also played two seasons of hockey in the British International Super League with the Belfast Giants. While in Belfast during the 2002-03 season, Karlander led the Giants to the league championship. In 29 games, Karlander compiled 22 points in the regular season. During the playoffs, Kory proved to be unstoppable, amassing 24 points in just 18 games to lead his team to the title and earn the league’s post season scoring title.
Adding a familiar face between the pipes, Martin comes back to the organization he helped hoist a championship during the 2005-06 campaign. Martin, who last played for the K-Wings in 2008-09, is preparing to protect the pipes in professional hockey for 11 seasons and his fourth in Kalamazoo.
“Very few goaltenders, no matter what level of hockey, bring the conditioning and competiveness of Joel Martin,” said Bootland. “We (K-Wings) have seen firsthand that he has what it takes to help a team win a championship.”
Since the last time Martin donned the red, white and blue, the netminder has played two seasons in the Central Hockey League, including 2009-10, where he was the CHL Goaltender of the Year, a half of season in the AHL, dressed in the NHL for the New York Islanders and played last season in Denmark.
Continuing the trend of returning players is Ftorek, who will hit the ice for his fourth season with the K-Wings. The 15-year veteran has worn a captain’s letter in each of his three seasons in Kalamazoo and helped the K-Wings capture three straight North Division titles.
Anchoring the K-Wings defense last season, Ftorek was the K-Wings most prolific blue liner recording 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) in 63 games
“With his (Ftorek) team-first mentality and knowledge of the game, Ftorek is an invaluable member of the team for his efforts on and off the ice”, said Bootland. “Sam does whatever needs to be done to win games, whether that’s at blue line or up front.
A staple in the ECHL, Ftorek has spent half of his career in the Premiere ‘AA’ Hockey League.
Coming from an excellent pedigree, Ftorek is the son of Robbie Ftorek, who played eight seasons in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings (2), Quebec Nordiques (3) and New York Rangers (3). The elder Ftorek also possesses an impressive coaching resume with 21 years experience, 10 of which was in the NHL.
Season tickets for the upcoming 2012-2013 season are on sale at the Wings Stadium Ticket Office. Ticket Office hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information about tickets, give the Wings Stadium Ticket Office a call during regular business hours at (269) 345-5101.
For more information about the signing of Aaron Clarke, Sam Ftorek, Kory Karlander and Joel Martin, please contact Mike Modugno, director of public relations and broadcaster at (269) 226-0384, extension 220.