KALAMAZOO, MI – The Kalamazoo Wings announced an addition to the coaching staff on Monday.
Joining head coach Nick Bootland on the bench will be former NHL defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski.
The 39-year-old native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan joins the Wings in his first coaching capacity, after hanging up his skates in 2016 at the conclusion of an 18-year professional career.
Drafted 194th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, Kwiatkowski appeared in 282 career NHL games, split between the Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Atlanta Thrashers.
“We’re super excited with the experience Joel Kwiatkowski brings,” Bootland said. “His playing career speaks for itself, and there’s no doubt that he can help all of our players on an individual basis. He’s going to work the defensive side of the bench, and I’m confident it’s in good hands.”
Including his time in the NHL, Kwiatkowski appeared in over 1,000 professional games across six leagues, and notched 394 career points. He spent the last eight seasons overseas, with stints in the KHL, Swiss-A League, and the Swedish Hockey League.
“It’s exciting. It’s a good transition from playing to coaching,” Kwiatkowski said. “I love Michigan. I live in Michigan. And with the K-Wings, I think it’s a perfect opportunity to get a different part of my career going.”
In addition, the team also announced today they have extended head coach Nick Bootland’s contract for three seasons through the 2019-20 campaign.
“Nick (Bootland) has been an ambassador in this community over the course of the last dozen years,” said Greenleaf Hospitality Group’s vice president of food, beverage and entertainment, Michael Oswald. “We’re thrilled for him to remain in Kalamazoo and deliver this city a Kelly Cup in the seasons to come.”
Bootland, 38, has led the Wings since the 2008 season, and has since become the winningest head coach in franchise history with 314 victories under his belt. The ninth-year bench boss has made the playoffs in seven of eight seasons, has tallied four divisional titles, and helped the Wings to the 2011 Kelly Cup Finals as champions of the Eastern Conference.
“I’m truly thankful to Mr. (William D.) Johnston and Ms. (Ronda) Stryker,” Bootland said. “When your beliefs and values line up with your ownership group, it really makes your job a lot easier. The fact that they continue to support this community the way they do is tremendous, and their ongoing investments in this building make it even better for the people in Southwest Michigan to come and visit.”
Since taking over at the helm of Kalamazoo during the 2008 season in the IHL, Bootland has posted a regular season record of 314-209-57, and a playoff mark of 28-32.
Prior to his coaching career, the native of Shelburne, Ontario spent ten seasons as a pro across the AHL, IHL, UHL, and ECHL. He spent his final three full seasons in Kalamazoo and wore the ‘C’ as the team’s captain. During the 2006 season, Bootland helped lead the Kalamazoo Wings to their first championship in 25 years, as they lifted the Colonial Cup as champions of the UHL.
The Wings open their 2016-17 season on the road against the Norfolk Admirals on October 14.