The Kalamazoo Wings announced their first player signing for the upcoming season. Fan favorite and long-time K-Wing, Justin Taylor, has signed to return to the team.
Taylor, 30, will be suiting up for his 10th season in Kalamazoo. Signing with the K-Wings in 2010, Taylor has played the majority of his career with the team, with the exception of the 2012-13 season. That year, he started the season in Kalamazoo where he played 11 games before being traded to the Trenton Titans. Taylor ended the season with the Idaho Steelheads before signing back with the K-Wings the following season.
In addition to his time in K-Wings uniform, Taylor has seen action in the American Hockey League where he has played a total of 18 games with Bridgeport, Utica, and San Antonio.
As he celebrates his 10th season of pro-hockey, Taylor reflected on his career so far.
“Getting to the 10-year mark of my career is an achievement in itself,” Taylor said. “The life of a hockey player is unpredictable with injuries, trades, and family, which are all factors of long or short careers.”
Taylor feels blessed to be able to continue on his hockey journey and being a part of the K-Wings.
“Being in Kalamazoo for nearly my whole career is something I pride myself on,” Taylor said. “I am a very loyal player of the Kalamazoo Wings organization.”
Taylor said it was an easy decision to want to be a K-Wing, citing the fans, staff and the city itself as contributing factors.
After suffering an injury during a game this past January, Taylor was forced to sit out the remainder of the season. At the time of the injury, Taylor was leading the team with 21 goals and was named to represent the K-Wings at the ECHL All-Star Weekend. Due to his injury, he was unable to participate.
While the injury was a big blow to him and the team, Taylor also said it affected his wife, Kelsey, as well.
“She took it harder than I did,” Taylor said. “She knew the work I put into the summer leading up to last season.”
Taylor says that is all in the rear-view mirror now and he is looking forward.
“ Life is full of challenges and obstacles,” Taylor said. “I can let it keep me down or I can come back stronger.”
“Justin has been a very consistent leader and scorer for us for a number of years,” said K-Wings Head Coach Nick Bootland said in a press release. “When he was injured last season, it created a huge hole in our lineup. He has worked extremely hard to prepare his body for the upcoming season.”
The 2007 draft pick of the Washington Capitals has made his mark in Kalamazoo.
Taylor is second all-time in K-Wings history in games played with 493, which is only two behind K-Wing legend, Kevin Schamehorn. Taylor is also third in team history in goals with 193 and sixth in points with 364.
With the injury behind him, Taylor is focused on one thing; bringing a championship to Kalamazoo.
“Every year you come in wanting to win. That’s the same as this year,” Taylor said. “The city and fans of Kalamazoo deserve to win.”
Taylor states that having another opportunity with the K-Wings only fuels his fire for the upcoming season.
“The time and effort I have put in since my injury last January is going to show,” Taylor said.
He is also excited about the team that the K-Wings are going to put on the ice.
“The coaching staff has been working around the clock to bring in some fresh faces and eager players wanting to prove themselves,” Taylor said.
By: Mark C. McGlothlen