Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kalamazoo Wings, (1990-91, IHL)

1990-91 Regular Season--Wings vs. Peoria Rivermen
     By 1990-91, the K-Wings were the primary affiliate of the Minnesota North Stars. They also dropped their original red-white-blue color scheme for the North Stars green and gold look.
     Ted Parfet still owned the franchise, then in it's 16th season in the IHL. Bill Inglis was by then just General Manager. John Marks was behind the bench for the fourth straight season.
     The IHL was becoming a coast-to-coast league with many teams in major US cities. Many of Kalamazoo's longtime rivals, such as Flint, Saginaw, Port Huron and Toledo, were long gone from the IHL. In their places were cities as far west as San Diego and as far east as Albany.
     The K-Wings were still in the Eastern Division, and captured the division crown in 1990-91. Their sparkling 52-29-1 record was good for 105 points, 16 behind league-best Peoria. John Marks' squad was third-best in offense that year, lighting the lamps 354 times. Steve Gotaas led a balanced K-Wings attack that year, scoring 30 goals and 79 points. Ed Courtenay led the team in goals with 35 on the year. Two other players scored 30 and four others scored at least 20.
     On defense, the K-Wings were fourth best in the league. Kalamazoo allowed just 302 goals on the year. They used five different netminders in 1990-91, led by Larry Dyck and Jarkko Myllys. Both played in 38 games a piece, with Myllys going 24-13-1 with a 3.79 GAA. Dyck responded with a 21-15-0 mark with a 3.66 GAA. Bryan Hayward, Kari Takko and John Blue filled in throughout the season.
     Kalamazoo opened the Turner Cup Playoffs against rival Muskegon. The K-Wings downed the Lumberjacks in five games (best of 7), out scoring the Jacks 20-12 in the process. In the semifinals, the K-Wings would fall to Fort Wayne in six games. Fort Wayne would then fall to Peoria in six games in the Finals.
     This is the first K-Wings program I bought, and it's the biggest one. It's made up of 58 pages, and includes the game insert, featuring Mario Thyer, and a stats page with a copy of "Wingo" on the back (think Bingo, but a K-Wings version). The usual local ads are there, including Godfather's Pizza, Scott's Baseball Cards and WMSH Radio ("Michiana's Sports Connection!"). That night's opponent was the Peoria Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues' main affiliate. The K-Wings were red hot at that point, having won 7 in a row to get off to a 15-2-0 record. Peoria was even better, having won a phenomenal 16 games in a row after dropping their opener to be 16-1-0 at that point. Sounds like a good game! The Albany Choppers (the original Fort Wayne Komets) were still around by then, but would fold by Valentine's Day.
     The action shot on the cover features the K-Wings and Flint Spirits. Might be from a playoff game the previous year. After getting destroyed by Kalamazoo in the first round, the Spirits would be bought by the Franke family and moved to Fort Wayne to replace the original Fort Wayne Komets.

Aftermath: The Kalamazoo Wings would continue to be the top farm club of the Minnesota/Dallas Stars for the remainder of their existence. The franchise would be renamed "Michigan K-Wings" after the 1994-95 season, to promote a more regional appeal. The IHL would continue to expand to major cities across the country, even returning to Canada. Attendance remained strong, but rising travel costs were beginning to take their toll on the franchise. Dallas pulled out of Kalamazoo after the 1999-2000 season, and the Parfet family suspended operations of the K-Wings franchise. Shortly afterwards, the United Hockey League filled the void when the Madison Kodiaks relocated to Kalamazoo and became the new K-Wings. That franchise now plays in the ECHL.

Sources:
International Hockey League Statistics: 1990-91 (from hockeydb.com)

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