For Kalamazoo Wings fans, this stunning news had to feel like it came out of left field: K-Wings' coach and director of Hockey Operations Nick Bootland has resigned to take the assistant coach's job with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Bootland has been a part of the Wings organization, as either a player or coach since 2005. He was the longest-reigning coach in professional hockey, but this move allows him to possibly achieve a coaching position in the NHL eventually. And it returns him to Hershey where he began his professional playing career in 1996, playing for seasons for the Bears.

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Bootland leaves Kalamazoo with 437 wins, making him the sixth winningest coach in ECHL history.

Hershey is the top farm team for the Washington Capitals. In the same period of time that Bootland ran the K-Wings, Washington has had six coaches, including two since Barry Trotz resigned after leading the team to a Stanley Cup in 2018.

K-Wings owner Bill Johnston thanked Bootland for his years with the team.

“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. 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.“ - Bill Johnston

Johnston said the team is currently searching for Bootland's replacement and hopes to have someone in place soon.

(Kalamazoo Wings via YouTube)

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