NHL Affiliations Give K-Wings Credibility

By Pam Shebest
Kalamazoo Gazette

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Rick Cleaver was torn following last season.

The IHL rookie of the year, Cleaver wanted to return to Kalamazoo, but also wanted to play in a league where he had a chance to move up.

When the K-Wings joined the ECHL, it was a no-brainer for Cleaver, who was one of the first players signed for the upcoming season.

“For me, personally, my main goal is to continue to move up,” Cleaver said by phone from his home in Parksville, British Columbia. “The best way to do that is in the (ECHL) because there’s a kind of pecking order: ECHL to AHL to NHL.

“To get an AHL contract or be exposed to scouts, I wanted to get into the ECHL.”

When the K-Wings announced an affiliation with the NHL Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, that was a bonus for Cleaver.

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