KALAMAZOO’S ACE IN THE HOLE WITH ONE UP HIS SLEEVE
How K-Wings alternate captain & standout D-Man, Collin Saccoman, has stuck at every level with big-time play and an even bigger smile.
By Miles Regan for K-Wings.com
KALAMAZOO, MI – Kalamazoo Wings alternate captain and defenseman Collin Saccoman is a glue guy.
He’s always been that way. No matter the place or space, he brings people together. He does so through his team-first play on the ice of course, but also by using his hidden talent: magic.
“Every guy has their own style,” said Saccoman, speaking on how teammates, friends, and how others react to his tricks. “It’s all fun, especially when you get to meet new people. The (only) reason why I do it is people’s reactions. If everyone reacted kinda bland it wouldn’t make it worthwhile.”
Saccoman’s obsession with sleight of hand began while playing at the prestigious hockey prep school Shattuck St. Mary’s.
“They brought in a magician to perform in Newhall (Auditorium) and I wouldn’t shut up about him,” said Saccoman, “My billet family at the time, the Palmers, thought it’d be funny if they got me a magic book because I wouldn’t shut up about [the magician], and little did they know I started reading it.”
The joke’s on them. Given Saccoman’s strong work ethic, the Palmer’s had unknowingly created Minnesota’s newest amateur magician.
Family Values and Dedication to Hockey
Saccoman’s work ethic can likely be attributed to his mother, who raised horses at the ranch he grew up on in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
Diana’s the one who introduced the sport to Collin by signing him up for skating lessons at age three. She also used hockey as a carrot to hand him a thankless task: stable duty.
“I’d get the lucky job of cleaning the stalls. My mom got me to do it because she said it’d help with my hand-eye (coordination),” said Saccoman, mimicking throwing a shovel over his shoulder. “Not sure if I bought into it but I was like yeah sure… that’s something people might not quite know about me.”
Those years at Shattuck were crucial to Collin's development on the ice, but even more so off of it.
Whenever he fell into his spare time, Saccoman would practice magic. Long road trips were best. He’d always keep a deck of cards handy and try new tricks on teammates.
He continued to grow, both as a player and magician and eventually signed to play Division I hockey at Lake Superior State University (LSSU) by way of a USHL season with Waterloo.
It was in Sault Saint Marie that Saccoman began to immerse himself in community service, too. During his time on campus, Sacco participated in a pen pal program, volunteered with local youth teams, and performed magic for anyone who’d gathered around. The Lake State audience, much like Kalamazoo, allowed Saccoman to be his best self.
“I was very fortunate both in Waterloo, through college, to here … the team has always been a good group of guys that is very accepting and aware of everybody’s beliefs and style and everything,” said Saccoman. No matter what ya did, it was a good group of guys that supported each other no matter what.”
The Power of the Smile
As a natural galvanizer, bringing everyone together is Saccoman’s ultimate goal. Magic is just a tool at his disposal. The Kalamazoo alternate captain always brings an uber-positive presence.
“He’s one of those rare humans that can bring different groups together,” said LSSU head coach Damon Whitten. “Saccoman can bridge all the pieces…”
Saccoman’s demeanor, among other qualities, has allowed him to stick in Kalamazoo.
“Guy’s got a great chuckle. The guy laughs a lot.” said K-Wings assistant coach Kohl Schultz.
Schultz, who tried to recruit Saccoman in 2020 while working with Kansas City Mavericks, came across Sacco while searching for a right-shot defenseman who could log heavy minutes.
The recruitment didn’t work out, largely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the two were reunited when Schultz joined head coach Joel Martin’s staff before last season. The bench bosses knew they were getting a quality player, and have been blown away by the quality person they have in Saccoman.
“This is a culture builder locker room guy,” said Martin. “From a playing side of things he leads from example… does the small things right and is willing to sacrifice his body. He eats pucks like it’s his job. (He’s been a) steady D-man for us.”
Saccoman doesn’t check work at the door when leaving the ice though. As an alternate captain, Sacco knows the culture-building responsibilities in Kalamazoo’s locker room largely fall on his shoulders.
Something that’s been groomed from childhood to Shattuck, to LSSU and now Kalamazoo.
“Oh, I was absolutely stoped (definition: excited, especially regarding a recent occurrence),” said Saccoman, when asked about being elected to wear the ‘A’ earlier this season. “It’s a huge honor and to wear (the A) and it means you’re doing something right. Guys are looking up to you and you’re there to serve and be the best for your teammates.”
The coaching staff agrees.
“I think he’s really passionate,” says K-Wings assistant coach Ben Wilson. “It’s easy for him to work hard and do things that are hard.”
And the coaches don’t take the magic lightly, either. As a group that’s not easily shocked, they’ve come to love “Magic Mondays” as it’s called in the Coaches’ Room.
“He’s impressive. It’s not corny magic,” said Schultz. “It’s pretty high-level stuff.”
The coaching staff is split on what Sacooman’s best trick is, too. Schultz found the first trick Saccoman ever learned “bonkers,” while Martin prefers the three-card monte. Regardless of the illusion, the coaches want more.
“We had him coming in here once a week last year to show us a new magic trick and it became too much,” recalled Martin with a grin. “He was a part-time hockey player, full-time magician and was like ‘I can’t do new ones every week anymore’... but yeah, we enjoy it a lot.”
From last season’s Defensive Player of the Year & Community Service Award nod to this season’s alternate captainship… Collin Saccoman is making an impact.
No. 23 loves magic because it’s another way to make those around him happy. A mystified child, bewildered teammate, or flummoxed coach, there’s a smile in store for anyone in Sacco’s audience – magic notwithstanding.
The K-Wings will be back in action Friday at 7:00 p.m. EST versus the Iowa Heartlanders (9-7-2-1) for $3 Friday at Wings Event Center. Tickets to the game can be purchased HERE.
Saturday, December 9, is Super Slappy Night versus the Iowa Heartlanders at Wings Event Center. Get ready to have some serious fun as we honor Slappy’s love for video games and the holiday season with the first 1,000 fans receiving a limited edition Slappy Ornament. Tap HERE to secure your tickets now.
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 Vancouver Canucks and the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Canucks. Kalamazoo plays their 36 regular season home games at Wings Event Center from October through April.