March 7, 2023
HOMETOWN PRO HUNTER VORVA IS LIVIN' BASEMENT DREAMS
Hunter Vorva's homegrown values led him to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a Kalamazoo Wing.
By Pam Shebest for the K-Wings
KALAMAZOO, MI: When Hunter Vorva showed up for the Kalamazoo Wings training camp last October, part of his equipment was a big red goalie glove.
He had no clue how much fun his teammates would have with that glove.
“That was the only red thing I had,” Vorva laughed. “Someone said something about it being a lobster claw. That kind of stuck.”
It definitely stuck.
Once he became known as “The Claw,” fans started taking little rubber lobster claws for him to autograph before games.
Carrying it further, “I actually put Larry the Lobster from Sponge Bob on my chin (guard on his helmet), just kind of rolling with it now,” he said.
The back of his helmet features the number 80 with angel wings on either side, a tribute to a fallen friend.
“(Matiss Kivlenieks) was a goalie partner of mine my last years of juniors,” he said.
Kivlenieks played for the K-Wings in 2018-19 and died in a tragic accident July 4, 2021.
“He was on a contract with (NHL) Columbus and we were really close,” Vorva said. “We were goalie partners and he ended up living with me in Kalamazoo that summer for a couple months while he was training here.”
Dream come true
Playing for the K-Wings is a dream come true for Vorva, who graduated from Comstock High School and grew up attending K-Wings games.
“I actually watched Marty (current K-Wings head coach Joel Martin) when he was the goalie here,” Vorva said.
“I see it now where I see all these little kids running around. That was me at one point, running all around, coming to the games.”
Vorva played youth hockey for the KOHA K-Wings and the KOHA Broncos as well as house hockey at Wings Event Center.
“I was always around the rink,” he said.
Now that he is a member of the ECHL K-Wings, “That was always a dream,” he said. “It’s one of those things when you grow up playing in the basement and you’re pretending you’re winning the championship with the K-Wings.
“Now that I’m here, it’s unbelievable. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s been a long way for me to get here. I’m able to see my family after being gone for eightish years.”
It was a chance meeting that put Martin and Vorva together.
“This summer, he actually came to Kalamazoo to see his parents and hopped on the ice for a goalie session,” Martin said. “Knowing who he was and knowing what he did in college and what he did in France and what he did in Huntsville, I was like, ‘yeah, if I can give this kid a chance.’
“He came in and earned everything he’s got and he keeps getting better, so it’s been fun.”
From France to the SPHL
A graduate of Marian University (2017-20) in Wisconsin with a degree in marketing, Vorva still holds school records for games played in a season (29 in 2017-18), wins the same year (20), career shutouts (8) and career saves percentage (.928).
Following college, he spent a year playing for the Spartiates de Marseille in France before joining the SPHL Huntsville Havoc.
While in France, language was no problem.
Although most of the players on the team spoke English, when he went out in the city, he had his own interpreter.
His wife, Delphine, is from France and the goalie said he is picking up the language little by little.
Returning to the United States in 2021, the goalie signed with the Havoc.
“We did our homework and talked to former coaches regarding Hunter,” Havoc head coach Glenn Detulleo said. “They all raved about his work ethic, commitment to the game and most importantly his consistency on the ice.
“Those are the traits we felt would be a great fit with our team culture.”
He not only was a great fit, Vorva’s record of 22-8-2-3 earned him SPHL goaltender of the year honors last season.
“Hunter had a tremendous season for us last year,” Detulleo said. “He was the backbone for us as we set a franchise record in wins (41).
“He gave the team a lot confidence every night with his poise and consistency. His daily work ethic was also contagious and made our players better every day having to shoot against him in practice.”
Although Vorva started this season with the Havoc, he was not there long.
“Hunter had a really strong training camp in Kzoo,” Detulleo said. “Joel let me know that if they needed a goaltender that Hunter would be his first call.
“It didn’t take long for Joel to have the need to call him up.”
With Martin juggling goalies at the beginning of the season, Vorva was sent to Huntsville twice before he found his niche with the K-Wings.
Vorva also had a chance to experience the AHL when he was called up by the Cleveland Monsters after Pavel Cajan was sent to Kalamazoo.
“From being a tryout guy, to making the team, to getting your first taste of American Hockey league call-up is pretty special,” Martin said.
Although he did not get into a game, Vorva skated warmups and the morning skate.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to go,” he said. “I was only there for the weekend, but it was awesome to go there and be around the locker room and watch from the bench.”
Unlike many hockey teams, there is no animosity between Vorva and K-Wings goalie Evan Cormier.
“Corms is awesome,” Vorva said. “I don’t know (Cajan) a lot but they’re all really good guys and we push each other.
“For us, there’s only one guy in net and you want to support that guy and you want your team to win.”
When he’s on the bench, Vorva brings a bit of levity to the game.
“I talk to the guys a little bit, joke around,” he said. “I usually just open the door.
“If Corms is in net, I get him his water. When I’m playing, I like to joke around when I come back to the bench. Some guys don’t like to talk, but I’m someone who likes to chat. I’ll chat about a goal that was scored on me.”
Martin said Vorva gives the team a chance to win every time he’s in net.
“He’s somebody who’s had to earn everything he’s got,” Martin said. “He’s never had a bad attitude about it, whether he’s sent down to Huntsville or sitting in the stands as a third goalie.
“He’s just a great human being. He brings a smile to the rink every day. He works extremely hard.
“We have two tremendous people, three if you count Cajan. They all get along. They’re all first-class human beings, they’re all team-first guys.”
It’s March, which means it’s almost time for THE biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Kalamazoo, the K-Wings’ 39th annual ‘Green Ice’ game! Secure your seats HERE, because Wings Event Center is filling up fast for the grandaddy of all Painted Ice games. Stay post-game for the player-worn jersey auction, and it's also $3 Friday, so enjoy $3 beers, sodas and hot dogs while watching your K-Wings face the Fort Wayne Komets.
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 the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters. Kalamazoo plays their 36 regular season home games at Wings Event Center from October through April.