Veteran Voice gives ECHL fans the chance to get to know a veteran in the League ahead of the 2018-19 season. In this installment, the ECHL spoke with Eric Kattelus of the Kalamazoo Wings, who enters his eighth professional season in 2018-19.
Name: Eric Kattleus
Hometown: Traverse City, Michigan
Team: Kalamazoo Wings
2017-18 Stats: 54 gp, 11g, 28a, 39 pts.
ECHL Career Stats: 353 gp, 67g, 180a, 247 pts.
ECHL: Did you ever think you would be going into your eighth season with Kalamazoo?
Eric Kattelus: The first couple of years I was here, I really felt ingrained with the team. You always see turnover year-to-year and don’t really know what the future will hold. There are better players coming into the league every year. There’s always an expectation to be on the team but you have to earn your spot every year. So, I guess the short answer is no, but I love it here and am happy to have had the opportunity to spend so many years here.
ECHL: What makes Kalamazoo a special place to play?
EK: It’s my home state. I’m from Traverse City, so my family and friends are able to come and watch me play a lot. My brother lives in Chicago, so he’ll hop on the train and visit regularly. Coach (Nick) Bootland has been here for a while and has set a foundation where players want to come and play here. The expectation is to win and be competitive, and that is appealing to a lot of players.
ECHL: It seems Kalamazoo always has a good core of returning players and veterans. What makes players want to return year after year?
EK: Coach challenges us to give our best every day, and that leads us to want to compete hard. He brings in players that are top notch and that pushes everyone to play harder. Michigan is a hockey hotbed, and the players from the area who are coming out of college or juniors and want a competitive environment while giving their family and friends a chance to see them play regularly want to be here.
ECHL: You enjoyed one of your best offensive seasons of your career last year. What has allowed you to play at a high level for so many years?
EK: I owe a lot of it to my support system off the ice. I am lucky to have an incredibly intelligent wife who challenges me every year to be my best. One of my cousins will text me after every game, win or lose, with a positive comment. As I said, my brother is at a lot of games, as are my parents and step dad. My family is very important to me and I am fortunate to be in Kalamazoo.
ECHL: As a veteran in the locker room, what is your message to the younger players?
EK: We have such a veteran team that I’m able to be a little more quiet in the room. Guys like Kyle Bushee, Ben Wilson and Joel Martin, who is now our assistant coach, are more talkative and take that role. I’m more of a lead by example type of guy, so I’ll show them a strong work ethic and what that can lead to on the ice, and let the other vets who like to talk take on more of the spoken word leadership.
ECHL: What are you most looking forward to this season?
EK: I start every season with the goal of winning the Kelly Cup championship and to enjoy myself. I probably have less than a handful of seasons left playing, so I want to make them count as much as I can.
ECHL: How have you been spending your summer?
EK: Trying to maintain a workout regimen and stay busy. I had a surgery that laid me up for about two months so I’ve been working on some rehab as well. My wife and I got married this summer as well, so we were busy planning a wedding, and there’s a lot that goes into that to make sure everything goes perfectly. We had a great day and a beautiful ceremony, so that all went off without a hitch.