Thursday, June 21, 2007

K-Wings sign leadership and experience

The Kalamazoo Wings have signed forwards Nick Bootland and Tyler Willis.

Bootland will return to Kalamazoo for his fourth season with the K-Wings. The team captain for the past two seasons isn’t only a vocal leader, he also leads by example. The forward produced 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists) a season ago and led all K-Wing players in game-winning goals with nine. He continued his scoring dominance in last year’s United Hockey League playoffs contributing 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) and helped the K-Wings reach the Colonial Cup Finals for the second consecutive season.

“We (K-Wings) need to strengthen our team with character guys that know how to win and no one fits that mold better than Nick (Bootland),” said Wings' general manager Wade Welsh. “In his time in Kalamazoo , Bootland has exemplified what it takes to be a member of the K-Wings and we are thrilled to be able to resign him.”

Last season, Bootland was rewarded by making his third straight appearance to the UHL All-Star Classic, his second appearance as a member of the K-Wings. For the second consecutive season, Bootland was voted by the fans to start in the All-Star Classic.

Bootland’s resume continued to get decorated during the postseason, as the native of Shelbourne, Ontario earned the K-Wings’ Pepsi Most Sportsmanship Award and was named to the league’s Second Team.

Two seasons ago, Bootland was a vital in bringing Kalamazoo its first professional hockey championship in 26 years. The veteran earned the UHL’s Most Valuable Player Award in the playoffs by registering 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in just 13 contests.

Bootland played junior hockey for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League and was a member of the Storms’ championship team in 1998. An impact player wherever he has laced up his skates, Bootland was awarded the Hershey Bears’ Unsung Hero Award during the 1999-2000 season and also received both the Player of the Year and Fan Favorite Award during his two seasons with Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). The veteran forward was selected by the Dallas Stars in the ninth round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

With the addition of Willis, the K-Wings have already solidified two-thirds of last season’s top scoring line and are bringing back one of the most popular players in team history.

The 2007-08 season will be the tenth in Willis’ professional career and his fifth in Kalamazoo. Whether it be through physical play or scoring, Willis has been a spark plug for the K-Wings. For four straight seasons (2003-present), the fans voted Willis the team’s WLKM Most Popular Player.

“Willis is a hard-working player that does what it takes to win games,” said Welsh. “Signing Tyler adds a player not only with championship experience, but one who knows how to get the most out of the other players around him.”

In his tenure with the K-Wings, the former eighth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks (1995 NHL Entry Draft) has played in 246 games, recorded 182 points (54 goals, 127 assists) and amassed 1,110 minutes in penalties. Willis’ best season as a K-Wing was during the 2005-06 season, when he set personal career highs in goals (20), assists (45) and points (65).

Willis has had success at every level of professional hockey he has played including the AHL. Willis’ best year in the AHL was back in the 98-99 season when he tallied 18 points on eight goals and 10 assists, accumulating 227 minutes in penalties.


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