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Bootland named assistant coach for AHL Hershey


KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Kalamazoo Wings, ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, announced Thursday that Nick Bootland, former director of hockey operations and head coach, has accepted the role of assistant coach for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League. 

A staple in the Kalamazoo community since 2005, Bootland transitioned his championship-level captainship of the K-Wings into a historic 13-seasons commanding the bench, starting at age 30. 

Bootland departs the K-Wings ranking sixth in ECHL history with 853 regular-season games coached and 437 wins.

Now, the former longest tenured head coach in professional hockey, with one team, continues his dream of coaching at the highest level. 

“The entire Stryker – Johnston family sends their very best wishes to coach Nick Bootland, and his family, as he begins a new chapter of excellence in professional hockey leadership,” said Bill Johnston, Owner of the Kalamazoo Wings. “Beyond our best wishes, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Nick for his exceptional dedication to the K-Wings family as well as the Kalamazoo community. The Washington Capitals organization made the right call in bringing in coach Bootland to be the assistant head coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. We will all miss coach Bootland, but we look forward to watching his continued success as an elite leader in professional hockey.“

As the 20th head coach in K-Wings franchise history, Bootland coached 929 games and amassed 481 career wins, both franchise records. While at the helm, the K-Wings won four division championships (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14), one conference championship (2011-12) and qualified for the postseason nine times. 

The return to Hershey is also a homecoming of sorts for Bootland. Hersheypark Arena (predecessor to Giant Center) is where Bootland started his professional hockey playing career in 1998, after his 9th round selection in the 1996 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars. Bootland played 208 games and posted 41 points across parts of four seasons for the Bears. 

"Brad Vandenberg, managing director of Stadium Management Corporation, and I are excited to welcome the next director of hockey operations and head coach of the K-Wings to our organization,” Johnston said. “Our preparations are well underway for the 2022-23 season. We’re working with urgency to have our new leader in place shortly and will extend that announcement to our entire K-Wings family of fans in the near future.“