December 18, 2008 by Matt Loker
K-wings Lange fights back from injury, makes it to the Pro’s
By: Mark C. McGlothlen
Talk about pressure.
When Kalamazoo Wings forward Tommy Lange skated out onto the ice at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Illinois for the Kalamazoo Wings first game of the season, he could feel it.
Not only was it his first professional hockey game, but nearly 30 family members and friends were in the stands watching his every move.
A St. Louis native, Lange’s cheering section did not have far to travel to see his debut, with only about 150 miles separating the two cities.
“Seeing them sitting in the crowd, you know, you get nervous being the first game and having them there”, Lange said.
Nerves aside, Lange gave his throng of supporters something to remember when he scored his first professional goal in the second period. While the moment was surely one to remember, Lange wishes the game would have turned out a little differently. The K-wings lost their season opener 5-4 to the Prairie Thunder.
“It’s always good to get that first one out of the way”, Lange said of his goal, “but I would have taken the win over the goal.”
Lange currently leads the K-wings with 59 shots on net, but with only two goals to show for it, frustration was starting to set in.
“I don’t know how many times I hit the crossbar after scoring my first two goals” Lange said.
This past weekend, the tide started turning for Lange. After a two goal performance in a game against Port Huron, Lange went on to score a goal in Friday nights contest against Bloomington and added four assists in Sunday’s game against Port Huron. Lange’s efforts last week earned him his first IHL Rookie of the Week award.
Making the pro’s almost didn’t happen for Lange. Just six games into the 2006-2007 season while playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Lange suffered a season ending injury.
In fact, the injury was so bad, that Lange sat out the entire season last year as well.
“I stretched out the ACL in my left knee and tore my MCL and PCL off the shin bone,” Lange said of his injury.
On bed rest for nearly three months following surgery with a leg brace from his hip to his ankle, Lange should have entertained the idea of becoming a movie critic.
“I think I watched every movie that Blockbuster had to offer” Lange said with a laugh. “I would watch four to five movies a day.”
After three knee surgeries and plenty of rehabilitation, Lange thought about hanging up the skates for good.
“I started wondering if I really wanted to do this (play hockey) anymore,” he said.
It didn’t take him long to realize that he indeed wanted to keep playing. Watching from the stands as several of his friends continued to play, Lange knew he wanted to get back out on the ice.
The 21 year old rookie came to Kalamazoo with the help of a very familiar name to K-wings fans; former head coach Mark Reeds.
Lange grew up playing hockey with Reeds son Kyle and Reeds himself would participate in skates during the summer months in St. Louis.
Reeds told Lange that he knew the coach in Kalamazoo and that Nick Bootland would give Lange a decent look in training camp.
“I owe it all to him (Reeds) right now,” Lange said.
While getting used to the rigors of playing in the professional ranks has taken Lange a little time getting used too, the advice he receives from his teammates has been invaluable.
One such player is veteran Jeremy Stevenson.
“He’s played my dream job, playing in the NHL,” Lange said of Stevenson.
“I sit two stalls down from him, so I listen to everything he says with open ears.”
Lange says that Stevenson has taught him some tricks on the ice, simple things that he never would have thought of himself, that make a difference in a game.
“That’s why he had an NHL job,” Lange said with a laugh.
With many of the K-wings being away from wives and girlfriends, Lange said that everyone on the team is like one big family, being that they are together nearly everyday.
And with families, comes competition. “We have some heated rivalries going on in the apartment right now with NHL 09 (video game), Lange said.
Speaking of family, Lange’s parents made the trek from St. Louis to attend the K-wings home opener on orange ice night. The team auctioned off their Halloween themed jerseys following that game, with Lange’s mom walking away as the highest bidder for her son’s #10 jersey.
“My mom said she is going to buy them all,” Lange sighed (but with a smile).
With the K-wings having at least two more jersey auctions this season, one has to bet that Lange’s parents are thankful for the falling gas prices.