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BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Mailbag #5

Friday, August 28th
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Mailbag #5

BIRD’S-EYE VIEW:  Mailbag #5

Blog #24 – August 28, 2020

by John Peterson

September will be here in a few days. We’re two thirds of the way through 2020.

In a normal year, we’d be tirelessly planning and scrambling to get ready for training camp a little over a month from now. Our season opener was supposed to be 50 days from today. We’d take on the Brampton Beast at Wings Event Center to open the 47th season in Kalamazoo Wings history.

But this isn’t a normal year.

Instead we’re shooting for a December 4th start, if everything goes as planned. The coaches have diligently recruited a roster composed of youth talent, veteran leadership, speed, skill, size, and toughness.

Yesterday we announced proven champion Mathieu Roy signed on for 2020-21, bringing a hard-nosed, high-scoring veteran presence to the team.

Two weeks ago, Tanner Sorenson inked a contract to return to Kalamazoo. Trust me when I say those are just the first two big splashes. There are more to come.

In the meantime, let’s get to some of your questions in the fifth edition of the K-Wings Mailbag.

Q: Are they going to play this year?- Sean E.

While I’m pretty sure this question was rhetorical in context, it’s worth addressing. As an organization we’ve always prided ourselves in transparency and honesty when it comes to matters our fans care about. This is obviously the “million dollar question” that is lingering.

The short answer is we still don’t know. What I can tell you is we are doing everything in our power to play, as long as procedures are in place to ensure the safety and health of our players, staff and fans. The K-Wings have representation in every ECHL Board of Governors meeting, as well as a weekly COVID-19 committee, consisting of several leaders throughout the league who discuss ideas and developments to determine the best course of action for us to return to play successfully.

I, for one, am impressed and optimistic about the initiatives being taken by many of the ECHL’s and its member teams’ decision makers. It is not a position I envy, as these are huge decisions that will effect so many players, coaches and staff league-wide. As of right now, the plan is to play a full 72-game season starting Dec. 4. We’ll continue to update as more information becomes available.

Q: Regarding the trade that sent Austin Farley and Spencer Naas to Kansas City for Greg Betzold: Is Betzold healthy? He played just 11 games last year. Also, will he sign?- Kenneth C. and Cody M.

When we announced this trade two weeks ago, we received a few questions and valid concerns that I grouped together into one questions for the Mailbag. Let’s start with the last question. Betzold had already re-signed with the Mavericks before the trade, so he doesn’t need to sign another contract. From my understanding, he fully intends to come to Kalamazoo and contribute.

The question about his health is one that I can’t answer, but I’d imagine the K-Wings coaches did their due diligence before completing the trade. Betzold suffered a season-ending injury last year in Kansas City and only appeared in 11 games following a huge season in 2018-19. He's a 6-foot-3 power forward who also possesses the skill of a playmaker.

The two biggest things to remember when it comes to this trade is size and salary cap. The K-Wings were the shortest team in the ECHL last season, with an average height of 5-foot-11, and the acquisition of Betzold addresses that. Also, as tough as it likely was to part with talents such as Farley and Naas, the latter wasn’t signed yet and the two combined would potentially provide salary cap difficulties for Kalamazoo when it came time to submit the final roster. Teams are not allowed to exceed the ECHL’s salary cap once the season starts, so the two-for-one swap allows the K-Wings coaches more flexibility when shaping the rest of the 2020-21 roster.

Q: What is your favorite ECHL city? How about your favorite postgame meal on the road?- Dalton A.

This is a tough one. There are some great ECHL cities that I enjoy traveling to each year. I always love staying in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Kansas City is near and dear to me because I have family in the area. Allen is a great spot with excellent food and entertainment options. Charleston, South Carolina has so much history. Salt Lake City is beautiful. My favorite, though, is probably Boise, Idaho.

As for the postgame meals, one that keeps coming back to me is the pizza in Wheeling. I always order the pepperoni calzone when we play the Nailers. It never fails.

Q: Do you wish you could change any of your Stanley Cup Playoffs predictions from a previous blog?- Miles M.

Yes. My “Stanley Hub Playoffs” blog, featuring five bold predictions, did not age well. I went 1-7 picking the Qualifying Round (thanks, Carolina), and 3-5 in the First Round. 4-12 so far isn’t even close to acceptable.

Also, picking against Vancouver and the New York Islanders twice was embarrassing. I’m glad to see I was wrong about our affiliates. That Canucks team is going to be good for years to come. Lastly, my Stanley Cup prediction was a tough look. I picked Edmonton and they were promptly bounced in their home arena by the last team to make it in, Chicago. Technically I picked a Canadian team to break the 27-year Stanley Cup drought and Vancouver is the only Canadian team left. Hey, you never know.

Q: What is your favorite sports memory of all-time?- Michelle K.

There are two that come to mind. First, the University of Minnesota’s college hockey team’s first of back-to-back National Championships in 2002. I grew up attending Golden Gophers games with my dad at Mariucci Arena and they hadn’t won a title in my lifetime. Against the mighty Maine Black Bears in the final, the Gophers needed a goal in the final minute to force overtime, before Grant Potulny scored the championship-winning goal. The game happened to be at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, which made it that much more special for Minnesotans.

The other was Stefon Diggs’ walk-off touchdown to defeat the New Orleans Saints in what has been famously dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle”. I’ve watched that highlight no less than 200 times since. We don’t need to relive what happened the next week in Philadelphia…

Q: In your Michigan State blog, you said there were only three Michigan Wolverines alumni who have played for the K-Wings, but I remember at least five.- Ron A.

Great catch. I did quite a bit of research for that blog two weeks ago about the Michigan State Spartans pipeline to Kalamazoo. In that blog, I also compared the East Lansing connection to other prominent Division 1 college programs in Michigan and I missed a few notable Wolverines alumni in that research. When I searched the full list of University of Michigan alums who have played pro hockey, I searched “Kalamazoo”, which resulted in only three players. However, I forgot about the “Michigan K-Wings” era of our team history.

Upon digging deeper, there have been seven former Wolverines to make their way from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo, including Joe Lockwood, David Roberts, Warren Luhning, Mary Turco, Jason Botterill, Dwight Helminen and Scott Matzka.

Q: When is Jordan Binnington going on “Just Wingin’ It”?- Gabe H.

We’re still working on this one. We’d love to chat with Binnington on an episode of the show. The timing of the NHL’s return to play its Stanley Cup Playoffs made things difficult, as he and the St. Louis Blues were obviously focused on trying to defend their title.

Now that the Blues are eliminated, we’ll try to reach out to him to see if he’d be interested. Maybe his former goaltending partner (and current K-Wings assistant coach) Joel Martin can help convince him.

Q: What is one thing about Minnesota not commonly known by out-of-staters?- Justin K.

We’re very passionate, yet very pessimistic about our sports teams in Minnesota. The loyalty is there, but Minnesota has been starved for a winner for a long time. We expect to lose. When things are going well and one of the pro teams has a great year, we expect it to come crashing down in the playoffs.

My college roommates gave me the nickname “Pessimistic Petey”, because I predicted heartbreak before it happened. Case in point: the 2009 NFC Championship, where the Brett Favre-led Vikings suffered an overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champs, the New Orleans Saints.

Minnesota hasn’t won a pro sports championship since the 1991 Twins. The Wild have never won. The Vikings are 0-4 in Super Bowls and 0-6 in Conference Championship games since their last Super Bowl appearance. The Timberwolves have never won one either.

Q: If you could play any role on Letterkenny (you can’t replace Wayne), who would it be? Who would you kick off the show?- Micky F.

First of all, Letterkenny is my favorite show. I can’t get enough. Wayne’s character (played by Jared Keeso) is obviously essential to the show, so I wouldn’t want to replace him. I think it would be fun to play the role of Daryl, Wayne’s best friend. Plus, my quarantine hair is going on six months without a cut, so I might be able to pull it off with a new pair of overalls.

The second part of your question is tough. I think all the characters on the show play off of each other so well so it would be difficult to get rid of anyone. If I have to answer the question, I’d probably say Stuart. It seems like his role in the show and lines are diminishing each season.

--

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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