Next Bootland Also Finds Home on Ice, Set to Help Kalamazoo Eagles Soar

By Pam Shebest
Special for

November 16, 2021

PARCHMENT — After being pelted by pucks when he was very young, Breckyn Bootland knew for sure he never wanted to become a hockey goalie.

Southwest CorridorInstead, the Parchment junior focused on puck handling and is making his mark as a forward for the Kalamazoo Eagles cooperative team in the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League.

If the name Bootland sounds familiar, it is because his dad, Nick Bootland, has been head coach of the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings for the last 13 years.

One could say hockey is in Bootland’s genes. Besides his father, his uncle Darryl Bootland also played professional hockey.

The “puck pelting” happened during youth hockey, where the players had a chance to experience all positions.

His dad also unleashed a few shots at his son, who was wearing goalie pads, in the backyard to give him a taste of the position he was hoping he would not like.

The young Bootland said goalie was never an option. Besides not liking people to shoot pucks at him, “I always liked scoring.”

That practice has paid off.

He was named team Rookie of the Year last year, recording six goals and three assists in 12 regular-season games during the COVID-shortened season.

After playing youth and then travel hockey, Bootland opted for high school hockey – but the transition was not as easy as he expected.

In travel, “I was just playing against guys my age, so when I stepped on the ice and saw guys that were way bigger than me, it was definitely a shock,” he said.

‘I knew guys would be bigger, but just to be out there with those guys was different. Knowing some of the guys out there helps out from a maturity standpoint because you have guys keeping you in line.”

He also had his dad available to do the same.

Kalamazoo Eagles hockeyWith the K-Wings organization opting to sit out the 2020-21 ECHL season because of COVID protocol, Eagles head coach Matt Kruzich asked Nick Bootland if he would be comfortable stepping in as his assistant coach

“He’s a professional hockey coach who has a full-time job,” Kruzich said. “He was invaluable with the amount of knowledge and experience he brings and the professional approach he has plus the depth of knowledge and the ability to convey that to young kids.

“When he speaks, they listen.”

After making sure his son was okay with the arrangement, Bootland agreed, giving father and son a chance to bond as they never had before.

Because of the K-Wings’ schedule, Bootland said he saw maybe one or two tournaments his son played throughout his travel hockey years.

“I literally watched more hockey and was around him and was on the ice with him (last year), than ever before,” Nick Bootland said.

“We practiced for three or four weeks before (the Eagles) were allowed to play any games, and then we practiced and played games. We’d travel in the car together. To do all those things was fantastic.”

Before that, “It always was me and my mom (Christine) going on trips to tournaments, and we’d always carpool with other people, which helped me get closer to my teammates,” Breckyn Bootland said.

This year, with the K-Wings back on the ice, the junior will start the season without his dad in the rink.

The Eagles’ first game is Nov. 24, and the K-Wings play a home game that day.

There are upsides and downsides to playing a sport his dad coaches, the junior said.

“I guess he knows what he’s talking about,” he said, laughing. “When I have a bad game, he doesn’t yell at me about it; he tells me ways to get better.

“It’s always been helpful to me to have his knowledge to bounce off of.”

The downside?

“He’s always right so I can’t really ignore him, even though sometimes I want to, like after a bad game I’ll just say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

“But I know he has the answer.”

Breckyn Bootland went to his first hockey game when he was just months old when his dad played for the K-Wings.

By the time he was 3, he was skating on the ice.

Kalamazoo Eagles hockeyAs he got older, some of the K-Wings would take him under their wings after practices.

“I remember going to games and going into the locker room, only after a win though,” he quickly added.

“I remember some of the guys would play knee hockey with me. On snow days, I was able to come into the rink early and just work and play around before practice. After practice, some of the guys would pass with me, so it was always fun.”

Nick Bootland said the family never pushed their son toward hockey, but he seemed to take to it from the start.

His bedroom had a hockey theme and his carpet was an ice rink.

Looking at his son from a dad’s perspective, “I have a pretty smart, high-hockey IQ son,” Nick said.

“One time he had a coach where he didn’t think what he was saying was right. He asked me how to handle that.”

His son was 8 or 9 at the time.

“I said you respect it and do it the way your coach said to do it. That was the best advice, I think, that I could give him.”

As a coach, Bootland is impressed by his son’s puck handling.

“He’s got super slick hands,” he said. “He can do things with the puck that I can’t and could never do.

“Within that 10 feet of the net, his skill set, his passing and his dangle, his ESPN moments, all those things that make hockey crazy and unique, he’s got a real knack for that.”

Bootland said he tries to give his son two positives and one negative after a game: “I don’t want to be the dad to take the fun away.”

After losing several seniors to graduation, Kruzich said the junior will be one of the seasoned players he will count on this season.

“He has a relentless drive and works his butt off in every situation,” Kruzich said. “He’s a true competitor, just like his dad.

“He has that high energy and good spirit. He’s got really good feet and really good hands and competes at a very high level every shift.”

Breckyn Bootland is one of 20 players on the Eagles, and one of three juniors. The team has eight seniors, along with four sophomores and five freshmen. Richland Gull Lake supplies seven athletes to the team, with five from Vicksburg, four from Plainwell, Bootland from Parchment and one more apiece from Comstock, Kalamazoo Christian and Paw Paw.

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Breckyn Bootland enters his junior season as a key contributor for the Kalamazoo Eagles cooperative team. (Middle) From top: Breckyn Bootland, father Nick Bootland and Eagles coach Matt Kruzich. (Below) Bootland, a student at Parchment, gathers the puck. (Action photos courtesy of the Bootland family; head shots by Pam Shebest.)

Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'

By Tim Robinson
Special for

March 17, 2023

When Paul Moggach began his tenure as Brighton’s hockey coach, the program was at its nadir.

“When we got into high school hockey, it wasn't very good,” he said recently. “Our league wasn't very good. Our team wasn't very good. We started with character to try to build something different, you know, a different mousetrap.”

Over the next quarter of a century, Moggach and his assistants, primarily Rick Bourbonais (whom Moggach succeeded as coach) and current coach Kurt Kivisto helped lift the program into one of the most respected, and successful, in the state. 

Moggach (pronounced MUG-uhth), along with former Detroit Catholic Central coach Gordon St. John, in February was named a co-recipient of the John Mariucci Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

They, along with Andy Weidenbach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, are the only Michigan coaches to have received the award, named after the longtime hockey coach at Michigan Tech. 

“He brought in people that he knew could do things he may have had limitations at,” said Kivisto, who played for Moggach at Brighton two decades ago and was an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach in 2020. “He did a good job surrounding himself with people he trusted and knew would be good for the program while he steered the ship in the direction he wanted. And he was very good at that.”

Moggach calls the honor “very humbling.

“​​I got into hockey because there was a need,” he added, “then I ended up with Rick at the high school for those years. When you look back at it, I grew a lot. I grew a lot personally and from a coaching perspective I grew. I had to change things, and so I think it's not so much the reward as at least a recognition that I stuck it out. My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Stick in and do good.’ She would say that when I was on the way out the door. That was her message to me, and I think (the award) just emphasizes that I did, I did stick in.”

“You can’t be happier for a guy than for a guy like Paul,” said Bourbonais, who coached with Moggach at Brighton for a total of 30 years, the last 20 as an assistant. “He took a hockey team and made it into a hockey program that is a top-five contender every year. Guys come out of the program with championships, but they also come out with life lessons and some idea of what it takes to be a great citizen and a great student as well as what it takes to be a great athlete.” 

At first, though, there were trials. The Bulldogs struggled in his first two seasons, and the program itself was in jeopardy for a short while after a bench-clearing brawl.

Once that crisis passed, Moggach and his staff, which for many years consisted of Bourbonais, Mike Brown and Jason Valente, worked to rebuild the Bulldogs from a team known for its physicality to one with a more wide-open passing style of play. 

When hockey trends went to a more defensive style, where the defense sparked the offense, Moggach adapted. 

During the first decade of his tenure, as the Bulldogs had more success and built their reputation, teams that had shunned scheduling them in the past began adding Brighton to their schedules. 

He kept looking for ways to improve his team, both on and off the ice.

Brighton was the first team to schedule a game with those in the Keweenaw Peninsula, both for the keen competition, but also as a team-bonding exercise. 

The bus rides, about 11 hours each way, helped players who in many cases didn’t know each other outside the rink to bond. So did activities outside of hockey including team dinners and curling, and the experience of being together as a team for four days.

Other teams took notice, and team bonding trips, including those far shorter than the 550 miles from Brighton to Houghton, are commonplace.

Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. Soon after, he introduced a skating coach and stricter team nutrition to the program.

“It’s not something that we had done when I was in high school," said Kivisto, who graduated in 2003. “It was something that some of the families and players weren’t overly excited about, but he knew it was good for the team and he was always looking ahead and finding ways to give his team an advantage.”   

Brighton grew to dominate its league, and winning gave Moggach the authority to introduce concepts new to players and families who grew up in travel hockey.

“I'm sure we weren't pleasing everybody,” he said, “But we thought we would do with character and live the kind of model that we would hope that the players would follow, that their families would follow. And as we did that it changed and we got in front of some things with our league, and had a good run in our league.”

Brighton won its first Division 1 championship in 2006. That was followed by back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2012 and 2013, and then 2017 and 2018, a stretch that saw the Bulldogs reach the Finals in six out of seven seasons. 

“Some of that is when you learn how to win, you win, even sometimes when you shouldn't,” he said. “I'm not saying that you know when we got to the Finals that we didn't deserve to win. We had a good recipe there that got us those five wins, but once we got it rolling, that momentum kept us going sometimes then maybe it shouldn't have.”

As the program’s success and reputation grew, players who had been in travel hockey started opting to play for the Bulldogs. 

“There are some kids on (this year’s Brighton) team who came from Triple A who are tired of that commitment, because of the travel, the time, the money,” he said. “And they found that high school hockey is different. I mean just look at the crowds. They don't get that kind of a reward for the work that they put in. 

“I think it's developed to that point now for us and we get players like that and it's made a difference, I think, and not just for our team but for all of high school hockey, " Moggach continued. “The coaches association has done a great job in promoting now and so it is a great destination for so many good reasons for kids to spend that time and grow up with their friends who are in their neighborhoods and in their community.”

Moggach is still a fixture at Brighton games, still in close touch with Kivisto when not driving to see his grandsons play or his stepson, Damon Whitten, who coaches at Lake Superior State. 

His impact will be felt in Brighton hockey for years to come.

“He left no stone unturned to try and be the best he thought we could be,” Brighton athletic director John Thompson said. “He’s one of those people who was genuinely invested in young people, and he always, always put the program first. He was a good manager of young men and developed some pretty good coaches, too.”

Moggach finished with a record of 467-172-43. St. John, who won six state titles at Catholic Central and another at Cranbrook, had a record of 229-29-18 in 10 seasons at Catholic Central.

“I was excited for (Moggach) when I heard the news,” Kivisto said, “seeing him put at a level of the guys who have won the award and the contributions they made to high school hockey. It’s neat to see him recognized at that level.”

Both men will receive their awards sometime this spring. 

“I can be recognized,” Moggach said, “and I think kids are and their families are always looking for that. But I think before you do that you have to build the program, the program has to be something that's respectful and respected and competitive, and I think we accomplished that.”


Gordon St. John led Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to a combined eight Finals championships over 16 seasons, the last seven with the Shamrocks including five straight in Class A or Division 1 from 1999-2003.

Gordon St. JohnDCC’s Class A championship in 1994 was the first of now 17 Finals titles, which rank second-most in MHSAA history. He built a 222-29-18 record (.859 winning percentage) over 10 seasons leading the Shamrocks through 2003-04, the last two seasons as co-head coach before then staying with the program as an assistant and helping the team to another Division 1 championship in 2005.

St. John’s championship at Cranbrook came in 1988 in Class B-C-D.

PHOTOS (Top) Retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach, far right, stands alongside his players as they await to receive their medals after winning the 2018 Division 1 championship (Middle) Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. (Middle photo by Tim Robinson; St. John photo courtesy of the American Hockey Coaches Association.)