The Detroit Free Press supposes ECHL veteran Kory Karlander supports locked-out NHL players the way that a carpenter might hope that all skilled tradesmen are paid handsomely for their ability.
But Karlander, 40, can’t relate to what NHL players are experiencing because he long ago abandoned the thought that he might become rich by playing his game.
”(He plays) truly for the love of the game,’ said Kalamazoo Wings trainer Scott Allison. ”Guys like him love the game itself. They like the mental and physical aspects of the game.”
Karlander is playing his third season in Kalamazoo and his 18th in professional hockey. This is his 12th team and his seventh different league. This is his third tour of duty in Kalamazoo, and he has played with that team in the International Hockey League, the United Hockey League and now as the oldest player in the ECHL. He has played more than 1,000 pro games without suiting up in the NHL.
”He’s just one of those guys who you can see the pure joy he has when he’s at the rink,” said Wings coach Nick Bootland.
It has become trendy for NHL players to extend their careers into their late 30s and beyond, inspired by the league’s average salary, which is close to $2.5 million per season. But it’s not the money that keeps Karlander playing. The ECHL has a salary cap of $12,400 per week, meaning the average player salary is roughly $550 per week. Karlander would be on the high end of the pay scale, meaning he makes a good wage, but not one that would allow him to summer in the Hamptons. He spends the offseason operating his lawn care business.
”I would not say I thought I was going to play in the NHL, but did I aspire to? Of course,” Karlander said. ”Everyone starts out that way when they start pro hockey.”
Karlander never thinks about the money he might have made had he played in the NHL. In fact, he tries not to think about the money he does make in the game. It’s always been his personal policy not to discuss his salary with anyone other than his family.
”I never made a million dollars and I never will,” Karlander said. ”I’ve had a couple of good years, but I’ve always believed when you negotiate your contract, you shouldn’t think about it again until you negotiate your next contract. When you are playing, it should not be about the money. If it is, then you aren’t probably doing it for the right reason.”