KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Normally the hockey playoffs would be taking place this time of the year but that is not happening due to COVID-19.
No one is sure when sports will return, but it is nice to have something to look forward to and the Kalamazoo Wings have provided that.
The K-Wings are scheduled to play the Walleye outdoors in Toledo on December 26th.
"It is something to be hey look this is something in the future and everything is going to be OK," K-Wings head coach Nick Bootland said. "We are going to find a way to get through this and whether that is the country, the state, the world we are all going to come back stronger and, in my opinion, I think we are going to realize the things that are important to you in life and I think you are going to look forward to something that is really exciting."
The K-Wings and Walleye played the ECHL's first ever outdoor game in 2014 at Toledo's Fifth Third Field. The entire event which lasted several days drew over 50,000 spectators.
"We had a pregame skate where we did a couple drills and then we literally let all the families on (the ice) on game day," Bootland said. "I don't think there are any NHL teams that are doing it that way, they let their families skate the day before. We thought the whole event was just as important as the hockey game and we will use it as a recruiting tool because it is something that our players truly enjoy and are happy to be a part of."
The K-Wings won the 2014 game 2-1 thanks to some excellent goaltending from now assistant coach Joel Martin. There are still four players on the Kalamazoo roster that played in that game but the new guys should notice a difference playing outside.
"There will be 14,000 people there but it is really quiet," Bootland said. "It is amazing how quiet it is and I think that even shocked me. I wasn't prepared for that because they (the fans) are so far away and obviously there is no ceiling to keep the sound in so you could hear a pin drop and you could really her everything that is going on. You can hear a lot of that hockey chirping that's going on between players from one end to the other and it was amazing how quiet it was."