Three Stars Of The ECHL: Kalamazoo Wings

The Kalamazoo Wings have been around for 46 years, and over the course of time, many greats have skated and wore a K-Wings sweater. The K-Wings won two championships in the IHL in 1978-1979 and repeated just a year later, winning the cup in 1979-80. Years, later, in the UHL, they defeated the Danbury Trashers to win the championship. This was in 2005-2006.

I was asked to write a three stars article detailing three Kalamazoo Wings who started off in the ECHL and proceeded to the AHL and up to the NHL. The K-Wings have been in the ECHL since instated back in 2009. I hope you enjoy my selections.

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The number one star is goaltender Jordan Binnington. Jordan played four seasons of junior hockey in the OHL. He did so with the Owen Sound Attack. During the 2013-14 season, Binnington played for the Kalamazoo Wings.

In 40 games, he went 23-13-3 with an amazing .922 GAA. Jordan recorded his first ever pro shutout on December 7th in Greenville, South Carolina. There, the Kalamazoo Wings defeated the Road Warriors 2-0, That night, the Richmond Hill native stopped all 36 shots that he faced. It was an important season for him growth wise as he split his time between the pipes with veteran goaltender Joel Martin. Martin is currently the team’s assistant coach.

From Kalamazoo, he played in the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage, Chicago Wolves and Providence Bruins. Over the course of five seasons, he put up a record of 86-53-12. One of his strangest moments in the AHL was a game at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA.

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Binnington was playing for visiting Providence and was winning 4-0 when a line brawl broke out and he got into a fight with Hershey goaltender Pheonix Copley. The backstop actually handled himself fairly well in that fight, showing toughness and not backing down.

Binnington, 27, worked very hard to earn an opportunity. Once he did, boy did he take advantage of the opportunity. He shut out the Philadelphia Flyers by a 3-0 final on the road at the Wells Fargo Center. The headline the next day in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch read, “Binnington throws zeros in Blues starting debut.”

Ironically, the same article referred to the game as “Two floundering hockey teams hoping against hope to salvage something of highly disappointing seasons and claw their way back into playoff position.”

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That is precisely what happened. Binnington finished the season with an outstanding 24-5-1 record. This included a .912 save percentage. During a group of very close one goal games, a reporter was speaking with Binnington and stated, “It would appear to be nerve wracking.” to which Jordan, without hesitation, said, “Do I look nervous? There’s your answer.”

He was straight faced and very calm. This calm demeanor not only helped him the rest of the season, but he went 16-10 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He won the Stanley Cup for the Blues by calmly winning a game seven at the TD Garden against the Bruins.

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The number two star is Yanni Gourde. Yanni played four seasons in the QMJHL with the Victoriaville Tigres. Yanni first entered the pros with the Worcester Sharks in the AHL. There, he played 58 games before being demoted to the ECHL.

As such, he played eight more games with the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL. In the 2013-14, Yanni Gourde played for the Kalamazoo Wings. In 30 games, he scored 15 goals along with 19 assists for 34 points. He did so in 30 games played played.

During his time with the K-Wings, Gourde was known on the ice for his playmaking ability. He could turn a play that appeared harmless into an undoubted grade A scoring chance. His biggest highlight in Kalamazoo came in a game against the Cincinnati Cyclones.

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Gourde was hooked while skating left to right in front of the goal, and while in mid air, scored an incredible goal from the superman position. The live radio call by Mike Modugno was incredible. After announcing the move, he simply sung, “dah dah dah dah dah dah”, the theme to SportsCenter, referencing that goal should be in the top 10. Yanni had incredible ability and was very successful in Kalamazoo.

From there, he spent several seasons with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. In 215 games, Gourde scored 67 goals along with 90 assists for 157 points. Throughout his AHL career, the knock on Gourde was his size as hockey database has him listed at five-foot-nine. While the forward is not the biggest guy, he certainly makes up for it with his effort and skill level.

Next stop for Mr. Gourde was Tampa Bay, Florida. In 254 contests with the Lightning, the Canadian has tallied 63 goals along with 88 assists for 151 points. He has also been a fierce competitor when his team appears in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 40 career games, Gourde has recorded eight goals along with 12 assists for a total of 20 points. This season, he reached the Stanley Cup Finals as his Tampa Bay Lightning will oppose the Dallas Stars.

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The number three star is veteran Darren Archibald. Darren started his career with three seasons of junior in the OHL. During that time, he saw time with Barrie and the Niagara IceDogs. Archibald played 73 games with the K-Wings, scoring 22 goals along with 38 assists. As such, he amassed 60 points while also accumulating 88 penalty minutes.

From Kalamazoo, Archibald went on to play several seasons with the Utica Comets. The winger scored 75 goals along with 69 assists for 144 points. He did so in 304 games played. Archibald worked really hard in all aspects go his game in the minor leagues. This ultimately led to his promotion to the Vancouver Canucks.

During the three seasons he spent there, Archibald played 52 games where he scored six goals along with eight assists. While compiling 14 points, he also added 26 penalty minutes. In more recent years, Darren has dealt with the injury bug and has spent time back in the AHL. Archibald spilt 2019-20 between the Toronto Marlies and Belleville Senators.

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