FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2021
By Pam Shebest
KALAMAZOO, MI - One of Neil Meadmore’s favorite hockey memories came at Wings Stadium and it was not even during a game.
It happened in 1980, the night the Kalamazoo Wings won their second Turner Cup.
After the bus trip back from Fort Wayne to the stadium, “We arrived at 2 or 3 in the morning and it was a packed house at the rink,” Meadmore said. “The most rewarding part was coming back to see the fans come out and share the victory.”
A rookie at the time, Meadmore ended up playing eight seasons with the K-Wings and will become only the fourth player to have his number retired in team history.
The ceremony will take place before Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Cyclones with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. at Wings Event Center.
Meadmore’s No. 27 will join the retired numbers of Mike Wanchuk, Georges Gagnon and Kevin Schamehorn.
“It’s cool, very humbling, to go up with Chucker and Georges and Shanmy, so it’s quite an honor,” he said. “I was kind of shocked because I never thought of that happening.”
Meadmore is one of two players receiving the honor this season. On April 15, Tyler Willis’ number will be retired, too.
Ironically, Meadmore started his pro career wearing No. 9.
“I didn’t really want No. 9 because it’s symbolic of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, so when 27 came up, I just grabbed it,” he said. “It was popular in the past with (former K-Wing) Alvin White wearing it. (No. 27) was well respected and he was very popular.”
For a young player who had no clue where Kalamazoo was located, Meadmore not only put up numbers that still rank among the top 10 in K-Wings history, but ended up settling there, raising a family and enjoying success as a Realtor with RE/MAX of Kalamazoo.
After his rookie camp with the NHL Detroit Red Wings in Glens Falls, NY, Meadmore was told he was being sent to the IHL Kalamazoo Wings.
“I said ‘Where is Kalamazoo?’” he said. “(The coach) said just jump on the plane with these other guys and you’ll find it.”
Top Ten numbers
Meadmore is among the top ten in games played (No. 10 | 389), goals (No. 6 |148), assists (No. 10 | 194), points (No. 8 | 342) and penalty minutes (No. 5 | 1,076).
The right winger did not start out trying to amass penalty minutes, but his size (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) had a lot to do with it.
“Anytime you have size, you use that to the best of your ability,” he said. “Not everyone who was tall was the policeman.
“There were certain players who were designated or took it upon themselves. That’s part of your makeup, so you utilize that the best you can.”
Meadmore laughed as he recalled one of his teammates.
“I know BJ (Brent Jarrett) as a centerman got me into a lot of fights for him. He was a great centerman but he would get into a lot of trouble.
“He knew I was there for him. I loved protecting my teammates and anybody that I felt was getting taken advantage of by a bigger player.”
His first year, Meadmore was paired with Tom Milani and Tommy Ross, becoming part of the potent TNT line.
“On a sad note, Tom Milani just passed away, so it’s really sad. I didn’t know much about Tom Milani and Tom Ross at the time. Come to find out later, they came to set some pretty impressive records in college. Tom Milani at Minnesota-Duluth and Tom Ross at Michigan State.
“All I had to do was be in the right place at the right time and those guys were pretty gifted, pretty skilled. It was a good year and we finished it off by winning a championship. Hats go off to Tommy and Tommy. You’ve got to have that whole group playing together as a team.”
Back in the day, teams had just 16 players: three lines, five defensemen and two goalies.
“I was very lucky to play with that limited number of players and survive the whole year without too many injuries,” he said. “I think we played with 11 one time in Saginaw. You deal with it and move on. Everyone else was in the same boat.”
Meadmore said one of his best years with the K-Wings was in 1983-84.
“I was hooked up with Rob Davies and Jim MacRae. That year we seemed to click the whole year.
“I remember scoring four goals in one game in town against Fort Wayne. That was pretty cool because I never scored four goals before. I’ve had a number of hat tricks, but not four goals.”
Davies (94 points), Meadmore (87), Jarrett (82) and McRae (77) ended that season as the team’s top four point-getters. Meadmore also led the team with 267 penalty minutes.
“We had a line that really, really, clicked and it was a fun year,” he said.
Once his playing career ended after two years with the IHL Milwaukee Admirals and two with the AHL Moncton Hawks, Meadmore returned to Kalamazoo.
“I think that’s why a lot of guys from that era stayed here,” he said. “They formed a lot of relationships over the years off the ice, not just with the fans but people in the business community and it made them feel part of the community.”
Meadmore credits Stephen Doherty, who was the K-Wings director of public relations, with getting players out in the community.
“We did a lot of speaking at schools with the kids, we did a lot of visits to the hospitals, talking to patients and kids,” Meadmore said.
“We did a lot of Christmas caroling at the mall. We were always approachable, just like the owners, the Parfets were. They were always a class act. We always felt they led the way and always gave their time whether to the players or the fans.”
Doherty said it was hard to find anybody who did not like Meadmore.
“There were certain guys that you knew you could always go to, and they would always be willing to do it. Meader would always be one of those guys who were willing to go out and do stuff,” he said.
“He was always willing to take time out of his schedule to go help you out, to help the team out.”
Besides being a good ambassador for the organization, “He was just a good, solid all-around player for our hockey club,” Doherty said.
“He could produce offensively, he could protect his teammates and was one of the best enforcers this team has ever had. He didn’t back down from anybody.”
Meadmore figured his return to Kalamazoo it would be short-term, but then he met his future wife, Kelleanne.
They have three children, Koty, a junior at Western Michigan University, Kayla, in the nursing program at WMU, and Connor, a senior at Portage Northern High School.
While several former K-Wings still play hockey in men’s leagues, “I have no desire to play, he said. “My body’s beat up and I’d just as soon watch my kids play.
“I miss the guys, the camaraderieship of the guys. There’s times when you have to make the choice to give it up.”
The Kalamazoo Wings are a professional hockey team located in southwest Michigan that has been a staple in the Kalamazoo, MI professional sports landscape since 1974. The K-Wings compete in the ECHL and are the AA affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets and American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters. Kalamazoo plays their 36 regular season home games at Wings Event Center from October through April.