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Chaulk taking job in Kalamazoo

Longtime Komets captain will be an assistant coach


– For fans mourning the loss of longtime captain Colin Chaulk from the Komets, good news came Tuesday – he will be at Memorial Coliseum this season.

But it’ll be with the archrival Kalamazoo Wings, who hired Chaulk on Tuesday as an assistant to coach Nick Bootland.

“I just feel like it’s a great opportunity for me personally to learn from Nick, who’s been a head coach for five years,” said Chaulk. “We’ve been talking to each other and have seemed to have hit it off so far as what we both believe.

“Sometimes you have to take a leap and go for it,” said Chaulk, who played 10 seasons for the Komets but retired because of health problems sparked from hockey injuries.

Chaulk, 36, was voted MVP by his teammates five times. Chaulk had 184 goals and 684 points, third most in franchise history, in 578 games and led the Komets to five championships.

He was limited to 28 games last season because a staph infection caused problems with his brachial plexus and phrenic nerve, parts of the spine that control limb movement and breathing.

Komets coach Al Sims retired this year and, even though Chaulk wanted the job, the team hired Fort Wayne native Gary Graham, who led Pensacola to the Southern Professional Hockey League championship last season.

“There wasn’t a position for me in Fort Wayne,” Chaulk said. “What I’m going to do in my life is be a hockey coach, and I need to go do that. I’m fortunate I had some other opportunities.”

The Komets are unlikely to have an assistant coach this season, general manager David Franke said. However, the Komets have a hockey operations general manager who can deal with the minutiae like booking travel and arranging for immigration work visas so their coach can focus solely on coaching, he said.

On Tuesday, the Komets signed defenseman Rob Kwiet and forward Kevin Walrod.

Kwiet, 24, spent last season with San Francisco, Stockton and Greenville of the ECHL, tallying 10 goals and 37 points in 64 games.

“He has proven he can be a solid contributor offensively from the blue line since his junior days. He will quarterback the power play and be put in a great spot to be successful with us,” Graham said.

Walrod, 24, had four goals and 15 points in 34 games last season with Michigan State.

Kalamazoo will be the Komets’ most frequent opponent this season – they play 14 times – with the first meeting Nov. 29 in Michigan. Chaulk’s first return trip to the Coliseum will be Jan. 5.

“It’ll be exciting to compete against them,” said Chaulk, who will commute the 117 miles to Kalamazoo because his family will stay in Fort Wayne.

Franke lauded the hiring of Chaulk.

“We’re all very happy here for Colin,” Franke said. “Maybe he can get to a head coaching job quicker through Kalamazoo than he can in Fort Wayne. I think he’ll do a great job for them.”