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Martin named K-Wings head coach

Monday, August 15th
Photo of Joel Martin on the Kalamazoo Wings' bench

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Kalamazoo Wings, ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, announced that ECHL Hall of Famer Joel Martin has been named the organization’s director of hockey operations and 21st head coach.

“On behalf of the entire K-Wings professional hockey organization, Ronda and I are thrilled to welcome Joel Martin to his new role as Director of Hockey Operations and Head Coach of the K-Wings,” said Bill Johnston, Stadium Management Corporation (Kalamazoo Wings parent company) owner. “Joel’s vast experience as a professional hockey player, combined with his ability to teach and lead, will deliver excellence to our entire organization. Joel has a detailed championship plan and we are excited to watch it unfold.”

Martin, 39, ascends into the K-Wings head coaching position after spending the last three seasons as an assistant coach under former Kalamazoo head coach Nick Bootland, who was hired as an assistant coach by the American Hockey League's Hersey Bears last week.

During his tenure as an assistant, Martin helped the team clinch a postseason berth and was an integral part of the team’s goaltending, defensive and special teams development and performance.

“I’m honored to be named head coach and director of hockey operations for the Kalamazoo Wings,” Joel Martin said. “I’d first like to thank my family for their continued love and support. Next, I’d like to thank Bill Johnston and Ronda Stryker, along with Brad Vandenberg for entrusting me with the opportunity to lead this historic franchise. I look forward to working alongside Toni Will, Rob Underwood and our entire front office & Wings Event Center staff.”

Prior to his time as an assistant with the K-Wings, Martin played 15 seasons of professional hockey across every level as a goaltender. Nine of those seasons were spent with the K-Wings, setting multiple franchise records and winning the 2006 United Hockey League Colonial Cup title. Martin retired from playing after the 2017-18 season.

His career numbers slot him as the K-Wings current all-time goaltending career leader in games played (422), saves (12,310), wins (229), shutouts (21), and minutes played (24,755). Martin also currently sits top four in every major single-season goaltending statistical category in Kalamazoo Wings history.

Martin was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame as part of the 14th class in 2022. He ranks third all-time in ECHL history in goaltender appearances (394), second in minutes played (22,962), fifth in wins (200) and tied for eighth in shutouts (15).

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Martin moved to Three Hills, Alberta as a young child. He quickly established himself as a budding talent and spent three seasons in the Western Hockey League with Lethbridge, Tri-City, Vancouver and Calgary. 

Martin joins Cincinnati Cyclones' head coach Jason Payne as the only two black head coaches in men's professional hockey. Both are active members of the NHL Coaches Association BIOPC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), and the hire is the fourth head coach of color in the ECHL’s 35-year history.

As the seventh BIPOC head coach in men's professional hockey history, Martin also joins Dirk Graham (Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, 1998-99), John Paris, Jr. (Atlanta Knights, IHL, 1994-1995 ), Shawn Wheeler (Charlotte Checkers, ECHL, 1998-2000), Graeme Townsend (Macon Whoope, Greensboro Generals, CHL/ECHL, 1999-2002), and Leo Thomas (Macon Mayhem, SPHL, 2018-2019).

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