If you asked Kevin “Killer” Kaminski in 1984 where he thought he would end up in his late forties, Lafayette, Louisiana probably wouldn’t have been on his radar. But that’s what the former pro hockey player is up to these days – serving as the Head Coach & General Manager of the Louisiana Drillers in the NA3HL Junior Hockey League.
“Life is very good in Louisiana. I’ve been traveling to showcases to look at talent and recruiting hard to bring a winning team to Lafayette,” Kaminski said.
“As I get close to 50, I really enjoy the warm places, and Lafayette is a hidden gem,” said Kaminski. “Warm weather, great food and culture, awesome people. And the fishing and gator hunting is pretty darn good!”
But where did it all begin for the Churchbridge, Saskatchewan native known to his peers and fans as “Killer”?
“When I was in the AAA Midget level, a goalie came out to play the puck at the blue line. The race was on,” Kaminski remembered. “I was always told to take the body, so I did… and the line brawl was on.”
And at that moment, his nickname was born, and it stuck with him as he progressed in his career.
“I just had so much respect, passion, and love for the game. I just wanted to play – just give me a pair of old gloves, some skates and a stick!” he explained.
Kaminski largely credits his parents for providing him with the opportunities he needed to not only become noticed, but also become successful.
“My biggest influences were Mom & Dad and their commitment in taking us everywhere for sports and teaching us great values and where we come from. Who knows how much time and money they spent on ball, hockey, and many other activities – was crazy,” he said.
And aside from receiving valuable advice from his parents, coaches, and local scout Hughie Scobie, he also had players he looked up to and modeled his style of play after.
“I remember watching Wendel Clark play in juniors. I wanted to play just like him,” Kaminski recalled. “And also Bryan Trottier. They were the best two-way centers to ever play the game – two guys I tried to play like to make myself a complete two-way hockey player.”
After spending the first two seasons of his career with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, Kaminski was selected in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars but was quickly traded to the Quebec Nordiques after playing his first National Hockey League game.
As a young, dynamic two-way center, Kaminski spent the majority of his first pro seasons with the Halifax Citadels in the American Hockey League and the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League before being traded to the Washington Capitals prior to the 1993-94 season.
Little did “Killer” know that he would become a part of one of the most historic seasons in Portland, Maine’s hockey history.
Although Kaminski split time between the NHL and AHL during the 1993-94 season, he played 39 games with the Portland Pirates, accumulating 32 points and assisting in leading the team to their first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history.
“Since the 1993-94 season after winning the Calder Cup, I made Portland my home,” Kaminski said. “I really got involved with the community with my hockey schools and helping out numerous charities. I even took over Maury Povich’s golf outing to help out with the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and had the honor to meet her.”
He remained with the Capitals’ organization until 1998 and retired as a player in 2000. In 139 NHL games, “Killer” accumulated 528 penalty minutes, which is nothing compared to his career total of 3,692 penalty minutes across all levels over the span of his 16-year playing career.
“It was just the way I played – fearless and relentless,” Kaminski said.
Kaminski is now entering his 16th season in coaching and even had the opportunity to return to Maine in recent years, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart.
“I was coaching the Portland Jr. Pirates in the USPHL two years ago. It was good to be back where I called home for 14 years, “Kaminski recalled. “I had a lot of great memories with the people there, as I did with my hockey school for 14 years, and so much charity work.”
“Oh ya, and the LOBSTAH is always wicked good!”
In his current role with the Drillers, Kaminski has the chance to continue to pass on his 32 years of hockey knowledge onto the next generation of players and serves as a constant reminder of what the game is really about.
“Every city has something special about it. I enjoyed and loved it wherever I was playing/coaching,” Kaminski said, “but the best part of playing in these cities, which I am so grateful for and pray about it everyday, is the friendship I have made in the locker room with the players and coaches, the off-ice officials, and yes, even the refs!”
“All of the fans who have supported me wherever I played made it all worth it, too. That’s the coolest part of this game.”
As he looks ahead to the 2016-17 season, something other than his nickname has also stuck with him since day one.
““A simple piece of advice is ‘work hard and good things will happen’ – so I did, and so did good things!”