Greetings KOHA Families and Friends!

The past month or so has been amazing on the local hockey landscape!

In August, we hosted a meeting for the Travel, House B, and Skill Development Team coaches to address the 2017/18 Coaching
Expectations and Initiatives:

--Skill Development
--Developing hockey sense utilizing Small Area Games
--Introducing/educating players & coaches on body contact/checking
--Goaltending recruitment, development, training
--Off-ice training in conjunction with Athletic Mentors

    The VIP room at Old Burdick's was at capacity as we discussed how these initiatives, with support of the skill development coaches will drive KOHA to become a regional hockey destination and a national leader for youth hockey.

    On August 28, 2017, USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Bob Mancini and USA Hockey
    ADM Manager for Youth Goaltending Programs Phil Osaer conducted our annual KOHA Coaches College focusing on age appropriate training/coaching, body contact/confidence and youth goaltending. Again, the response was overwhelming as
    Coaches College Classroom
     coaches packed the class room at Wings West and took to the ice for more technical education/instruction.

    The following day over 100 KOHA players from 8U, 10-12U, and 14U took to the ice for "FREE" body contact/confidence clinics lead by Coach Mancini and the KOHA Skill Development Team. 
    In addition, the 10-12U and 14U were also involved in off-ice training to enhance their body contact abilities and build confidence in giving/receiving bumps. Coach Mancini and I enthusiastically agreed this was one of the best body contact clinics either of us had conducted! Check out the KOHA Facebook & Twitter pages or Bob's Twitter @bobusahockey for some great video!
    In September, the Travel and House B seasons opened with practice and evaluation skates. It has been great to get back on the ice and see how much each player has grown and developed over the summer. Speaking of physical growth, Athletic Mentors opened in Wings West, which will help our players develop physical literacy and promote additional development. Undoubtedly, with the amazing skill development staff taking care of the on-ice training and Athletic Mentors providing the off-ice guidance, we are focused on our Mission, "To provide every boy and girl in southwest Michigan the opportunity to enjoy and excel at the game of hockey."

    Over the past weekend, approximately 150 coaches attended either the Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 USA Hockey Coaching Education Program clinics at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. The feedback wastremendously positive! The goaltending demonstration on Saturday morning conducted by Coach Osaer at Wings West was amazing. Others raved about the presentations of WMU Coach Andy Murray or Hockey Manitoba's Bob Caldwell.

    My favorite was offered by Jukka Lamminaho, Coaching Education Manager of 
    the Finnish Ice Hockey Association (FIHA) and their 16U National Coach. Jukka reinforced our development model within KOHA and maintained we are on the cusp of doing some great things locally. Jukka was on the ice with the 10U and 12U travel teams, so he saw firsthand our players and coaches. FIHA is also a world leader in player and coaching development, so his endorsement was important to me, and should be to you as well.

    House B and Travel will soon conclude three weeks of body contact/confidence skill practices. Coaches have remarked the practices have been beneficial and they have observed utilization of the skills in their recent games. The Skill Development practices will soon transition to skating fundamentals, both technical and the A, B, C's (agility, balance, and coordination). I am excited to announce Coach Mancini will return on October 2, 2017, at 6PM to provide classroom instruction and explanation to how our practices will be conducted to our House B and Travel coaches. Much like the game of hockey has evolved, so has the instruction/teaching/coaching of skating. With that said, practices will look different, or similar depending on your views of development. I am excited about where we are taking skating fundamentals and instruction, and your Skill Development Team coaches (remember three are still playing professionally) are too! Feel free to come to the demonstration practice at 6:45PM that night at Wings West to watch our Travel and House B coaches doing one of the skating practice plans.

    I almost forgot to mention, that Tom Newton has agreed to spend some time this winter working with our club. Coach Newton had spent the previous 27 seasons has the assistant coach at Michigan State University, and the eight years prior as an assistant coach at Western Michigan University. He has over 700 NCAA victories on his resume, including three CCHA regular-season championships, four CCHA Tournament championships, 14 teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament, four Frozen Fours, and the 2007 NCAA title team. Coach Newton has helped bring 13 All-America selections and eight Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalists to the MSU campus. He has also coached over 30 Spartans that have gone on to play in the National Hockey League. Look for Coach Newton on October 2 at the coaches meeting and on the ice that night!

    My note is a little longer than usual, but there are just so many great things going on, both on and off the ice!

    See you around the rink....



    KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association's (KOHA) Interim Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke, has had a busy summer compiling an impressive staff to help lead on-ice development for the 17/18 season. Rounding out the Skills Team for the 17/18 season are Nick Bobo and Logan Thorne.

    Nick and Logan are both former goaltenders.  With their experience and desire to coach the next generation of KOHA goaltenders, they will help us achieve the objective of recruiting, developing and training more goaltenders in our club.  Nick and Logan will focus on the 6U, 7U, and 8U programs and assist with a "goalie world" station during practice. 

    "Nick and I have coached together for many years both at the high school level and with players participating in select festivals representing Michigan.  Nick brings a passion for coaching and player development.  His experience as an instructor in the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program has provided him with an extensive knowledge of LTAD and age appropriate training.  Nick will be of great benefit to our 6U, 7U and 8U players, coaches and families.," says Kakabeeke.

    Bobo, who grew up in the Kalamazoo area and began working with the USA Hockey Coaching Education program back in 2010, says, "I'm excited to have returned to the Kalamazoo area after spending the past two and half years in Charleston, SC. The KOHA players, parents, and staff are great to work with, and I'm excited to return to a national ADM program."
    Thorne, who grew up playing in Kalamazoo, is excited about being on the ice with more KOHA players this season. "Logan is an upcoming coach in KOHA. Logan has been actively involved with the '07 players for several years, both in House C and Travel.  I have observed Logan grow and develop as a coach. Logan has been able to establish great relationships with this group, and I expect he will do the same has we broaden his responsibilities with more of our players, coaches and families."

    G.O.A.L. (Get Out And Learn) PROGRAM - SEPT. 2017


    CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF (and contact office TODAY to pay!)

    This program is designed for FIRST TIME HOCKEY PLAYERS. NOT intended for those having previously completed a season of our Beginning Hockey program, or those currently playing hockey.

    Learn To Skate participants are welcome to register.

    (And then fill out this form and MAKE SURE payment is received in KOHA office by end of day on 9/6,
    or your spot will be given to someone on the wait list)


    September 10, 17 & 24 – NOON-1pm @ WINGS WEST


    This program is designed for kids ages 5-9 looking to get into hockey - or to see if they like it! It's a three-week, low-cost program led by KOHA coaches and volunteers. KOHA has some equipment bags that can be used for the duration of this program, and Wings West is offering skate rental at no charge for each of the three dates.

    By signing up here, you agree to pay in full by September 6th to ensure a spot for your child. Any signup spots unpaid after September 6th will be given away. If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



    Greenleaf Hospitality Group recently announced its partnership with Athletic Mentors for new training facility at Wings West

    KALAMAZOO,MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) is pleased to announce that it has entered into a five-year partnership agreement with Athletic Mentors, the area's premier athletic training organization for ice sports.

    Beginning in September, KOHA's athletes will be able to "get the edge" with world-class off-ice training programs, and thanks to a new partnership between Wings West of Greenleaf Hospitality Group (GHG) and Athletic Mentors, they'll be training in a state-of-the-art facility.
    "We are elated to be able to provide our young athletes the type of quality off-ice training - in a first-class space - that is necessary to meet our goal of being a regional destination for hockey players," said KOHA's Interim Executive Director, Frank Noonan. He goes on to say, "We are so thankful to GHG, and Bill Johnston specifically, for recognizing the need for such a space - and making the investment - to effectively train our athletes and provide the best possible environment for player development."
    Athletic Mentors will be working with the coaches to identify the overall goals of the teams and then design programs based on strengths and weaknesses.
    "Every athlete is unique and requires a customized strength training and skill development program that helps them achieve peak performance both individually and within the team dynamic," said Mark Olson, head coach and co-founder of Athletic Mentors (AM).
    The AM Hockey Coaches are no strangers to training on-ice athletes. They work with the Kalamazoo Wings in-season to stay game-ready, and Head Coach, Nick Bootland, attributes his players' consistency and overall conditioning level to Olson and his staff's "ability to innovate and stay ahead of the game with NHL-quality hockey-specific training gives our team an advantage over the competition through the grueling stretch of an ECHL season."
    KOHA's Interim Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke, believes AM will give KOHA members a competitive edge this season and beyond.
    "To see the new space coming together is exciting. From a player development standpoint, KOHA's Travel & House B players and coaches will have access to some truly elite training - on and off the ice this season. Each year we evaluate areas on which we can improve for our members, and I think entering the 17/18 season, we have hit it out of the park," adds Kakabeeke.
    Two of KOHA's newest Skills Team members (who both happen to be current Kalamazoo Wings) - Justin Taylor and Kyle Bushee - speak highly of Athletic Mentors:
    "Mark came to us full time last season and his presence was noticed right from his opening address to our team. From first years to veterans, players were able to learn and improve on specific aspects of their game. Mark's workouts have helped aid me to be a more consistent player throughout the season," says Taylor.
    Bushee, a Kalamazoo-area native and KOHA alum, adds, "Mark and his team at Athletic Mentors have been so beneficial to me the past two summers. I've gotten leaner, stronger and faster. I am excited for the opportunity Mark and his team will provide to KOHA's young athletes. They will see immediate benefits on the ice, attributed to the work they'll be putting in off the ice."
    The new training facility is set to open in September for the youth user groups at Wings West. Plans to expand programming to the community are currently slated for after the first of the year 2018.


    KOHA House B Broncos  2017 Evaluation Skates & Skills Skate Dates
    We highly recommend that your player try to attend both evaluation skates in order to help us fairly evaluate him or her prior to the draft.
    Wednesday, August 30th - First Evaluation Skates 
    *10U B  5:30 to 6:30pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street 
    *12U B  6:45 to 7:45pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street 
    *14U B  8:00 to 9:00pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street 
    *Parent meetings for each age group at the beginning of each evaluation skate
    Wednesday, September 6th - Second and Final Evaluation Skate 
    10U B  5:30 to 6:30pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street 
    12U B  6:45 to 7:45pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street 
    14U B  8:00 to 9:00pm  Wings West - N Avenue off of 9th Street
    Monday, September 11th – First skate with KOHA Skills Team & Off Ice Training with Athletic Mentors

    On Ice                                      Off Ice Training
    10U B  5:40 to 6:20pm                 6:30 to 7:10pm Wings West
     12U B  6:30 to 7:10pm                7:20 to 8:00pm Wings West
     14U B  8:10 to 8:50pm                9:10 to 9:50pm Wings West
    *Coaches will be drafting the teams during the Skills Skates
    Wednesday, September 13th  
    Regular Season team practices begin



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