Kalamazoo’s original and best Learn to Skate program is back and starts October 18 & 19! KOHA’s Learn to Skate program was designed and implemented by a Western Michigan University graduate student with a hockey and education background. Thousands of young people have learned to skate with KOHA. KOHA Learn to Skate is open to girls and boys, whether they have an interest in playing hockey or not.

Equipment: KOHA has sets of basic protective equipment available for rent, first come - first served. Skaters must have a certified hockey helmet, skates & winter gloves or mittens. Knee and elbow protection is strongly suggested.

What your child will learn: KOHA begins with teaching skaters how to stand up and fall down. Skaters are divided into groups of about 10, with an adult volunteer assisting KOHA’s program leader. Over the 8 to 10 one-hour sessions of the program, skaters will learn forward gliding and skating, backwards skating, hockey stops, left to right and right to left turns and front to back and back to front turns. Proper (efficient) skating technique is emphasized.

LEARN TO SKATE SESSION 1 (Saturdays and Sundays - WINGS WEST - 9:15-10:15AM)
OCTOBER 18TH THROUGH NOVEMBER 16TH (Sat & Sun - 10 sessions total)
Cost: $120

Recommended to be five (5) years old by December 31, 2014; younger players may participate with advanced approval by the program director.

If you have any questions on the Learn to Skate Program please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call (269) 349-7825.

Players must register on line with USA Hockey (Free for skaters 6 and under) prior to registering with KOHA for either Learn To Skate or Beginning Hockey.



Originally posted on Hockey Player Development website on 8/7/14 by Nick Parillo, a former D1 player and current Hockey Director and coach.

Since its inception in 2009 USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) has been a hot topic in almost every rink throughout the United States.  The ADM which was created by USA hockey after years of extensive research that involved world class trainers, doctors, nutritionists and psychologists is continually under public fire. The debate often centers on half ice versus full ice games at the younger birth years.  Skeptics to this innovative development model have sought an alternative and have turned to the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).

Many AAU team leaders cleverly recruit by defaming the ADM with the promise of full ice games and full ice practices, “real hockey” in their terms. This divide between scientifically based athletic development versus keeping the game the same has created the Civil War of hockey in the U.S

What is the right route for my child’s development?   This becomes a complex question when given the two choices and knowing the difference in skill and size that exists at the younger ages. The answer when two great arguments occur about anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.

An athlete’s development is analogous to that of an infant: you crawled before you walked and walked before you ran.  One facet of development fed into the next.  Now consider this analogy concerning an ice hockey player:  you did not zoom around the ice before first learning how to balance on skates or shoot and pass a puck before learning how to hold your hockey stick. Each skill fed into the successful acquisition of the next skill.    The American Development Model is a blue print for progressively building age-specific skills in order to have success at all ability levels of the game.  USA hockey has given our youth coaches a guideline for age appropriate on-ice development with age-specific drills which ensure that our players learn how to use their edges, stick handle and shoot a puck-the fundamentals for success in the sport - while being in a competitive, fun and nurturing academic environment. 

Practice plans at the younger ages are mapped out for the coaches and the rink is divided strategically into sections for various drills.  The division of the ice surface serves a multi-purpose role.  More stations allow more content covered in a single practice.  This structure also allows more participants on the ice at one time, keeping ice costs down while allowing more players into the game through the removal of team rosters and the allocation of ice that once restricted the number of teams an association could host.  Lastly, a great coach to player ratio keeps the players moving; serving to keep a younger players attention longer. 

Using USA hockey’s half-ice mandate at the 6U & 8U ages allows every player an opportunity to touch the puck more during game play.  Major U.S. youth sports like soccer, baseball, football and basketball all have surfaces that have been age appropriately modified creating a better opportunity for younger athletes to learn to play the game properly.  In contrast watching a full ice 6U or 8U hockey game can be compared to watching Miguel Cabrera in a homerun derby contest against little leaguers.  There are 2 or 3 kids on each of these teams that dominate play; while you might think “at least these kids will be getting better”, you are wrong.  The fact is in a small area game scenario the more skilled players are challenged because they must now maneuver through smaller spaces. Their skill set of edge control, puck control and body position improve immensely and is not limited to anticipating a quick break while waiting at the red line. 

An additional skill acquired in the small area game concept is body contact which occurs more frequently in the smaller area which helps the player learn how to use his/her body to create advantages during game play.  The payoff for this skill will occur as the player graduates to the checking ages given that more players will be accustomed to body contact allowing for a smoother transition.  Further, this contact may result in fewer explosion type checks in favor of riding the man off the puck in order to reacquire the puck in transition, the result being fewer injuries.  Ultimately, it has been my observation that the ADM has put fun back in the game for the kids, giving more of a “pond hockey feel” where the game itself is the greatest teacher.  This ‘pond hockey feel’ however is often lumped together with fun as the reason to play on a small ice when the true underlining reason is that playing on reduced surfaces all the way until squirt develops players to compete at a higher level.

A counter approach to the ADM and what many people may have heard of but might not be totally familiar with is the AAU.  The AAU is the fastest growing ice hockey program and currently exists in 21 states around the United States. The philosophy of the AAU is "Sports for All, Forever." Since the implementation of the ADM model by USA hockey the AAU has been gaining speed as the counterpart to the USA hockey’s plan to implement the ADM in all of our country’s youth hockey organizations. The AAU encourages local organizations to create their own models that cater to the level of play on each team.  This lack of leadership reinforces the AAU supporter’s argument that the ADM is forcing mite hockey players into a “one size fits all” program which is detrimental to younger elite hockey players.   

The AAU’s approach is in complete contrast to the research surrounding the creation of the ADM program.   Given that hockey is a late developing sport and close to 60% of players drop out by the age of 14 in the United States, the supporters of the AAU ignore this research.  Having personally spent ten years working with hockey players and going through the system myself I have seen that just because at 6 or even 14 years of age you are not a “great player”, does not mean that by 18 or 23 you will not be a “great hockey player”.

One argument used against the ADM is that the cross ice only approach for ages 6-9 misses an important window for teaching skating skills and ADM’s cross ice only approach limits a player’s ability to develop skating fundamentals such as open ice speed forward and backward.   The science behind the ADM states that a player 6-9 has a potential for growth in the areas of quickness, agility and subtleness (1st speed window).  At this age the player’s musculature is not developed enough to teach a powerful stride for 200 ft.  USA Hockey encourages skating coaches at practices to work with players skating techniques so that when the body reaches that stage of muscle development for a complete stride, the player is competent.   Yet, despite the years of research on this topic, parents still come to me and say “well my son or daughter played full ice all year and then participated with players that played half ice and they are way ahead…”  9 out of 10 times that I see this same child out on the ice immediately I can tell that he/she lacks the necessities and foundation that others have gained participating in the ADM.  Yes he/she is fast skating down the ice and yes he/she competes well, but put that skater into drills where he/she must maneuver quickly and demonstrate a proper weight shift going in and out of a turn and they are almost always awkward.  They lack the technique and the thousands of repetitions the cross ice players have attained.   The question to these parents is, “At 16-20 where will your player be without the proper foundation?”

Every situation is different and in my 10+ years working as a hockey instructor I have seen great players get better, but more often I have seen great players fall flat at advanced levels of the game due to lacking skill foundation or failing to have the work ethic needed to distinguish themselves in competitive situations.

I would ask parents to think about these facts when choosing between USA Hockey’s model and that of the AAU.  USA Hockey’s decades of dedication to research and development has resulted in a model which allows each athlete the opportunity for getting the proper fundamentals they will need for long term achievement in the sport.  Without these fundamentals, as a 16 year old player hoping to take their game to the next level…will they be ready?  I believe USA hockey has answered this question.

Originally posted on Hockey Player Development website on 8/7/14 by Nick Parillo, a former D1 player and current Hockey Director and coach.




With our second season as a USAH Model Association quickly approaching, KOHA has decided to kick things off with a bang for the 2014/15 season. Our first “Coaches College Kickoff” will take place on August 12th & 13th at Wings West.
Our Director of Hockey, Brian Tulik, along with our ADM Director, Eric Babcock, as well as our Skills Team will be working alongside USA Hockey for a two-day on and off-ice intensive workshop designed to allow our coaches the opportunity to:

  • Work with USAH staff and volunteers from Colorado Springs
  • Provide feedback on what worked and what didn’t from last year from their own experience on the ice
  • Increase comfort-level with age-appropriate practice planning
  • Review the windows of trainability for Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD)


I’ve put a challenge out to my coaches for this. In the past, we’ve had guys come to these meetings and not say a lot and then drill KOHA once the USAH guys have left town – we want the coaches to come to the college prepared to engage and ask the tough questions,” says Tulik. “We are fortunate to have the caliber of individuals coming on the ice with our coaches – we need to take advantage of their knowledge base.
USA Hockey’s Technical Director of the ADM, Ken Martel, will be conducting the on and off-ice portions of the Coaches College Kickoff, “I am impressed with the way KOHA’s staff embraced the ADM and committed to implementation from top-to-bottom. Their first year as a Model Association was not without some bumps, but overall their delivery was terrific. Their skills team is knowledgeable, their coaches engaged, and their players are developing. I am excited to come in and help fill holes where needed; not just swoop in and dictate. I think the Coaches College is a great way to kickoff another exciting season.
KOHA’s ADM Director, Eric Babcock is also looking forward to getting the 2014/15 season started with the Coaches College Kickoff event, “I know the Skills team as a whole is really looking forward to the momentum our association built last season. We learned a ton – we did some things really right and we think we’ve identified areas where we can certainly be better. The bottom line is we are all here with a common goal: to develop all of the players in our program to the best of our ability.
Brian Tulik, Eric Babcock & the KOHA Skills Team

Ken Martel – Prior to arriving in Colorado Springs in 2006, Martel was a part of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program staff as an assistant coach for eight years. Martel has made appearances behind the bench of nine U.S. teams that have competed in International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, including two gold medal-winning teams. Additional coaching stops include a season as an assistant at the US Air Force Academy, and as an assistant for seven seasons at Michigan Tech University. A four-year (1985-89) letter-winner as a defenseman at Lake Superior State University, Martel helped the Lakers to the school’s first-ever NCAA national title in 1988.
Joe Bonnett – The Michigan native and former Western Michigan University Bronco (’93) standout spent the last 14 seasons as an assistant coach for Colorado College. Prior to CC, Bonnett spent four seasons (1997-01) as recruiting coordinator at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He started his post-graduate career as associate head coach of the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings (NAHL), guiding them to an appearance in the 1994 Junior “A” national tournament. 
At WMU, Bonnett lettered for four seasons as a forward (1989–93) and served as an assistant captain his senior year.  Over the years, Bonnett has had the opportunity to volunteer with USAH during the summer months coaching at various festivals with top players. KOHA is excited to welcome Joe back home and have him on the ice with our coaches.

Matt Kakabeeke - USA Hockey Associate Coach-in-Chief for Michigan, ADM Affiliate Coordinator for Michigan. Matt has over twenty years of experience coaching hockey at all levels in Kalamazoo - from the learn-to-skate program to travel hockey for KOHA, as well as head coaching stops with the Kalamazoo United High School team and the Western Michigan University Stallions.  He possesses a Level 5 (Masters) Coaching Certification and has attended the Master Symposium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Washington D.C.



Sponsored by KOHA and Wings West
Tournament Director: Frank Noonan This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Early Bird Tournament – September 26th thru 28th
Sanction No. MIT150062
Friday thru Sunday – Mite thru Midget; Girls and Travel A and AA

Holiday 3 on 3 Tournament – December 27th (& 28th if needed) 
Sanction No. MIT150066
Saturday & Sunday (if needed) – Mite (6U & 8U) Squirt thru High School
All skill levels; House C, House B, Travel A & AA and AAA

Hockey Cares House B Tournament March 13th thru 15th
Sanction No. MIT150064
Friday thru Sunday – Mite thru Midget; House B and Girls

Tournament Entry Fees and Payment Policy
All Tournaments are Four Game Guarantee






MITE (6U/8U)

2006 & YOUNGER




2004 & 2005




 2002 & 2003




 2000 & 2001




 1998 & 1999




 1996 & 1997



Division Level Defined
House B – Teams are selected through a draft and made up of multiple birth years within the division classification.  Teams are balanced with in the Association with no player cuts.
Travel A – Teams made up of the younger birth year within the Division.  In Michigan, players are allowed to play up in a birth year but not down.  Other states are classified by the division and are made up players from both birth years within the division.
Travel AA – Teams made up of the older birth year within the Division.  In Michigan, players are allowed to play up in a birth year but not down.  Other states are classified by the division and are made up players from both birth years within the division.
Travel AAA – Teams made up of the single birth years within the Division and are the highest skill level within the age group.



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