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BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Mailbag #3

Wednesday, May 27th
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Mailbag #3

BIRD’S-EYE VIEW:  Mailbag #3

Blog #14 – May 27, 2020

by John Peterson

It’s been a month since our last K-Wings Mailbag. Over that time, we’ve received several questions covering a wide range of topics.

So as we officially begin our third month of lockdown (and subsequent early off-season), let’s get to some of the pressing issues you’ve presented via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email.

First off, thank you to everyone who has read these blogs so far and watched some of the other content, such as our weekly Just Wingin’ It show and the 2019-20 Team Awards.

We hope you’ve enjoyed it all so far. If you have any suggestions or ideas for new topics of conversation, questions for future blogs and Mailbags, or just want to chat, we’d love to hear from you!

Here we go, off and running with a fun one.

Q: Will there be a jersey design contest this year? If so, can I submit my jersey design early?- Aidan D.

Great question. Yes, we are planning to run our Fourth Annual Fan-Designed Jersey Contest again later this summer. The first three years have been very popular and last August, we received a record 36 submissions and nearly 7,000 votes. Hang on to your jersey design and keep an eye out for the start of the contest. The biggest reason I wouldn’t advise submitting it early is we still don’t know the theme yet. Last year, we chose an affiliation theme, honoring the Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets. It was fantastic. The winning design was one of our most popular specialty jerseys of the season.

Q: What exactly are the benefits of having affiliates? We have salary caps and can only spend so much on players. They [call up] our guys any time they want. If it isn’t a financial issue, what do we benefit from having them?- Shannon S.

This is a question I’ve seen in every market I’ve worked, and I totally understand why. When you invest your time and energy into your favorite team, especially at this level, it’s easy to feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick. I promise you there’s a lot of luck that factors into it. Ultimately, the ECHL is a developmental league and the ultimate goal for players is to move up to the highest level they can get. As a coaching staff, you try to line your pockets with as many good quality ECHL players while recommending a handful of players to AHL camps. If an NHL and AHL team stay healthy, often they’ll send more players to their ECHL affiliate, rather than keeping those players to sit in the stands.

The last couple of seasons, we’ve seen a perfect storm of injuries in Vancouver on down to Kalamazoo and there have been quite a few more call-ups than send-downs. As far as the salary cap goes, ECHL teams actually spend LESS on NHL and AHL players who are on their roster. Those contracted players are a flat rate of $525 per week against the ECHL cap, regardless of what those players' NHL/AHL salary is.

The reality is, in today’s game, teams that win the Kelly Cup are stacked with affiliated players and usually it means those organizations have, for the most part, avoided the injury bug. Look at Colorado in 2017 and 2018, as well as Newfoundland in 2019. They were loaded. The other benefit to affiliations is the credibility and the working relationship between the hockey operations staffs to develop their prospects.

Q: Can you dig up anything on one of the most unique uniform decisions to go with Cooperalls? Not many teams wore them. I think only Kalamazoo in the IHL and Hartford/Philadelphia in the NHL wore them, but they were the trend for a while.- Tony F.

For those unfamiliar with the term Cooperalls, it refers to full-length waist-to-foot hockey pants made by the brand Cooper and worn briefly in the early 80s. CCM had its own brand of these pants which were lighter than the traditional breezers and socks look we’re used to seeing, and from 1981-83, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers wore them. The Hartford Whalers joined in during the 1982-83 season and the two teams actually faced off in the “Cooperall Game”. Look up highlights on YouTube!

The Kalamazoo Wings wore similar pants during the 1982-83 season in the IHL, and several Canadian junior teams and Minnesota high school teams also wore them. It was even rumored the Toronto Maple Leafs wore them during the preseason in 1981-82.

One of the original reasons Cooperalls were developed was for player safety and protection, as the pads under the pants stayed in place tight to the body. Ironically it was safety concerns that eventually led to the trendy trousers’ demise. The outer fabric was similar to that of a nylon windbreaker, minimizing friction and causing collisions into the boards at faster speeds.

Q: Who is the person behind the voice talking about the players (in the awards videos)?- Cameron R.

Would you believe me if I told you it was Slappy? I’m kidding. The voiceover specialist will remain a mystery, but you’ve likely heard his voice in the K-Wings television and radio commercials in addition to our 2019-20 Team Awards.

Q: We have retired Kalamazoo Wings that still live in the area that were huge for the organization. Could we get some updates and interviews with them to see how life after hockey is treating them?- Ben D.

Great idea. There’s so much hockey history here in Kalamazoo and I’ve been fortunate to attend a few alumni gatherings in my short time with the team. It has been awesome getting a chance to meet some of the K-Wings greats from the team’s 46 seasons and hear their stories. You’re right. Several still live in the area and own businesses, attend games, and stay involved in the community. I’m all for telling their stories. Who would you like to hear from? Would you be interested in reading a feature-type blog post or a Q&A piece? How about connecting via video chat for an episode of Just Wingin’ It? Or do you have something else in mind? We’d love to hear your suggestions and are excited to incorporate our alumni into the off-season content throughout the summer.

Q: Will the Two-Hearted Ale Bell’s jerseys be available to bid on?- Ja’Male J.

I think it’s now safe to announce that we do have a plan in place to auction off the special Bell’s Brewery Two-Hearted Ale jerseys that we had planned to wear during the March 21 game, before the rest of the season was canceled. These have been widely mentioned in the comments and questions I’ve seen and it’s a shame we won’t be able to show them off at Wings Event Center. Thanks to Bell’s we’re still planning on showcasing the jerseys and making them available for purchase, benefiting a local charity. Stay tuned for the details!

Q: Awesome news about Winterfest (December 26 at Toledo), but why can’t Kalamazoo have something like this?- Doug F.

For starters, we’re thrilled for another chance to play an outdoor game this coming season. It doesn’t happen very often at the ECHL level, and here’s why: $$$. Outdoor games are incredibly expensive to pull off. Teams usually have to consider the costs of renting a football or baseball stadium, building a rink from scratch on the field, installing a cooling system to insure the ice conditions are top-notch, marketing the festivities, and staffing such a large event. We’re talking six-to-seven figures.

Then comes the work behind the scenes to sell tickets, secure corporate partnerships for the event and organize all the other attractions to help offset those costs and make it memorable for the fans. Toledo’s ownership also owns the Triple-A baseball Mud Hens, who play at Fifth Third Field where the outdoor game will be held. That certainly helps makes things easier on their end.

Someday, I think it would be awesome for Kalamazoo to showcase its history with an outdoor game at Waldo Stadium, hypothetically. It’s not a completely farfetched idea, but would take a whole lot of money, resources and details to work out in order to pull it off here.

Q: What advice would you give to people pursuing their dreams?- Derek L.

Never lose sight of your goals and always believe you have what it takes to achieve them. Cherish the people who supported you and impacted your journey. Appreciate the memories you made and the lessons you learned along the way. You’ll enjoy successes and you’ll likely have several letdowns. Grow from those experiences and strive to be better every day.

Q: You’re stuck on a deserted island with ONE division rival. Who is it and why?- Kalamazoo Wings’ Social Media

Let’s see. I’ll make a super team featuring Indy’s host hotel, Cincinnati’s views from the bridge over the Ohio River, Toledo’s press box, Wheeling’s postgame meal, and Fort Wayne’s history. That’d be a wild combination. I think I broke the rules, but I’m sticking to it.

--

Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to jpeterson@kwings.com. Enjoy!

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