In July, Kyle Marino signed a deal to rejoin the Wolves for the 2023-24 season. The 28-year-old forward was a member of the ’21-22 Wolves team that skated to the Calder Cup championship before spending last season with Henderson. During his first stint with the Wolves, Marino enamored himself to teammates and fans with his bruising style of play and willingness to do whatever it takes to secure a victory. In Part 1, Marino talks about returning to the Wolves, protecting teammates, his unique relationship with Chicago fans and much more.
Why come back to the Wolves?
“I had an unbelievable first experience with them in 2021-22. It was really special and I loved every minute of it. I went away to Henderson last year and I definitely missed Chicago and how they run everything there.
With them going independent this year, it’s an unbelievable and unique opportunity for me. I think a lot of the guys who have signed are looking for that opportunity. I’m just super excited and Bobby Nardella being the head coach was one of the biggest things. He and I are pretty close and he helped me get to where I am right now. So, those are probably the major factors of me coming back.”
What appeals to you about the Wolves being an independent AHL team this season?
“Being undrafted and a little bit older, sometimes in the American League you get lost on a roster or you don’t get a fair shake some of the times. This will kind of eliminate that. And in talking to (general manager) Wendell Young and Bob, the best players every night are going to play, and that’s just an exciting thing.
Growing up and playing on different teams trying to get to the next level, it was always the best players who were playing. So, if you deserve to be in, you’re going to be in and that’s exciting for everybody.”
Why is it important to have a player on the roster who isn’t afraid to jump in and defend teammates?
“I’ve always been a guy who sticks up for my teammates. I think the game still needs it. I obviously want to bring more than that to the team and be able to take a jump this year with the team we have coming in, but I’m just going to try to do my job first and foremost. I know exactly who I am and what I need to do. Being consistent is a crucial part of being successful for me this year.”
During your first stint with the Wolves, you developed a deep relationship with the fans. How did that come about?
“I’ve never really experienced anything like that before in my career. It’s a fan base that really gets behind all the players and when you play hard and bring a physical aspect of the game in cities like Chicago and Rosemont, those fans are going to gravitate to those players. They appreciate that and I appreciate them for sure.”
How unique is the atmosphere at AllState Arena with these fans?
“When people think of the Chicago Wolves, they think of those fireworks and the in-game production—I just don’t think there’s anything better out there.
The more you put into Chicago, the more the fans will love you and you can’t really replicate that in other places.”
What’s your favorite memory of the run TO the 2022 Calder Cup?
“Going out for dinners with the guys every round and spending time in the locker room with them. And just knowing how good our team was. It was just fun to be a part of that whole run. It was so special going to the rink every day with those guys.”
What do you want to do better in your game to make that next step?
“Taking care of my own end and hopefully being someone they can turn to, whether it’s on the penalty kill or defensively late in games. And then offensively just being heavy to play against and being hard to play against, finishing my checks and getting on forecheck. Holding on to the puck more this year will be huge offensively and getting some chemistry going offensively would be great.”
Coming soon: Part 2.