K-Wings sign three for upcoming season
KALAMAZOO — Summer is in full swing, but the Kalamazoo Wings are focused on the upcoming season and have announced the signings of three players for the 2017-18 campaign.
The players, forwards Jimmy Mullin and Kyle Blaney, along with veteran defenseman Kyle Bushee, were all members of the K-Wings last season.
Due to an injury in training camp, Mullin never stepped foot on the ice last season. However, Mullin still made an impact in the community as he earned the Community Service Award at the end of the season. Mullin played for Miami University and Minnesota State University, Mankato before turning pro.
Blaney, 25, returns to Kalamazoo hoping to pick up where he left off, having a strong second half of the season. In 43 games with the K-Wings, Blaney scored 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists) and added four assists during the K-Wings first round playoff series with the Toledo Walleye.
Bushee, 32, is coming back for his second season with his hometown team. Bushee, a native of Otsego, grew up in and around the Wings Event Center, so signing on the dotted line was not a hard decision for the 10-year pro.
“It was a pretty easy decision to come back for me,” Bushee said. “Obviously my family is here. My girlfriend is here. But aside from that, we get treated unbelievably well here and I just loved playing in Kalamazoo.”
In 56 games last season, Bushee scored eight goals and added 23 assists, which helped push him to his second highest offensive season in his career, while his +16 rating set a new career high.
Bushee attributes his numbers last season to his teammates and wants to keep it going this upcoming season.
“I’m just the beneficiary of good teammates and being in situations to succeed,” Bushee said. “I am looking to build off last year though heading into this season.”
With the K-Wings sneaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round to the Toledo Walleye, Bushee said, this year’s team needs to buy into the program from the start.
“I think it took us a bit to find our identity as a team and to really buy into what coach Bootland wanted,” Bushee said. “After about January we were one of the best teams in the league. I think for us this year is to just trust the process and buy into everything 100% from day one.”
In addition to his successful season, Bushee reached new heights in other areas of his career as well.
In February, Bushee played in his 500th ECHL game, becoming the 38th player to reach that milestone. Bushee also ranks 30th all-time and seventh among American-born players with 524 ECHL games played.
“Never did I think any of this would happen,” Bushee said of his career. “I just loved to play hockey and have been so fortunate to play the game this long. I still feel like a kid every time I come to the rink. It doesn’t seem real that I’ve played so long and for so many games. It’s gone by so fast.”
As for the upcoming season, Bushee has one thing in mind both personally and for the team: win!
“Personally just to do whatever I can to help us win,” Bushee said. “As a team, our goal is to win a championship. I have never won a championship as a pro and would love nothing more than to do that in my hometown.”