Hello Hockey Families!
My name is Matt Kakabeeke and I am excited to be named KOHA's Interim Hockey Director. I wanted to touch base and share some exciting things the KOHA Staff and I have been working on as we prepare for the 2017/18 hockey season.

First, a little background on me: I grew up in Kalamazoo, I played my youth hockey with KOHA, I am currently the 2007 (10U AA K-Wings) travel coach, and for the last 15 years, I have been USA Hockey's Associate Coach-in-Chief for Michigan. I am passionate about coaching education, player development and growing the game. If you have any questions for me, you can email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

As you know, since becoming a USAH Model Association, KOHA has fielded an impressive Skills Team. This off-season, one of our goals is to tap into our local resources and really increase the experience of the coaches we have on the ice with your kids. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be announcing some new additions to the KOHA Skills Team - and we think you will be as enthusiastic as we are about having them on the ice with our players and coaches.

Stay tuned, too, for some terrific news about how we will be revamping our off-ice program & training offerings for the players.

Enjoy the rest of your spring - and for those players that attended tryouts last week, or are attending tryouts this week, we know it can be a stressful or anxious time for both players and parents. Below are links to some great articles to help navigate tryouts and their aftermath:

Thank you for choosing KOHA for your youth hockey experience! See you around the rink, 

Matt Kakabeeke
Interim Hockey Director, KOHA


From the Board of Directors:

KOHA Membership,

After wrapping up what was another overall successful season, we would like to provide you with an update on the current staffing situation at KOHA. As you know, we are actively searching for an Executive Director to lead our program. While we have had some interest in the position, we haven’t identified what we feel is an ideal match for our organization at this time. We will continue our search, but in the interim, we need to have staffing in place to support our membership and to continue moving KOHA towards our vision of being a national leader in youth hockey and a regional destination.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I’m pleased to announce that we have approved an interim plan for the upcoming season as follows:

•    Matt Kakabeeke will join the staff and serve as our ‘Interim Hockey Director’, overseeing all of our on-ice initiatives, including the leadership of our coaches and skills team and the development of all hockey instruction and programming. Not only is Matt our 2007 KWings Head Coach, for the last decade he has been USA Hockey’s Associate Coach-in-Chief for the Michigan District.
“I have known Matt since he coached my son 25 years ago.  When I became the leader of coach education in Michigan, I sought him out to be one of our instructors, which he has been for almost 15 years.  Matt has a passion for making players better, as individuals and team members.  He has great hockey knowledge, is highly respected by USA Hockey's professional staff, and has something perhaps most important to his new role - absolute integrity, in that he does what he believes is right. I am thrilled to see him take on this new role, and I wish Matt and the KOHA family the best.” ~  Jack Witt, USA Hockey, Michigan Coach-in-Chief

“As KOHA enters its fifth season as a Model club, I can't think of anyone better to lead the Association into the future. Matt brings not only a wealth of hockey knowledge to the position, but a passion for improving the youth hockey experience. He is focused on continuing KOHA's emphasis on long-term athlete development and does a great job to ensure that developing character individuals is always part of KOHA's direction. I am excited to see the positive impact his leadership and guidance will bring for this next chapter of KOHA hockey.” ~Bob Mancini, USA Hockey, ADM Regional Manager

•    Frank Noonan, our current Director of Operations, will formally transition to ‘Interim Executive Director’.  Frank has been involved in youth hockey in Kalamazoo for 25+ years, as a parent, volunteer, coach, rink manager, board member, and staff/administrator and before his retirement was in the Banking Industry for 29 years.  He will work closely with the Board of Directors to execute the strategic plan and direct all aspects of the day-to-day operations both on and off the ice in addition to continuing as the KOHA Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) Representative.  Frank will also continue his responsibilities as the League Commissioner and President of the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League.

•    Dave Toth, our current Travel Director, will transition into a full-time role to provide additional support to the membership and operational functions. Dave has been involved with KOHA as a parent, travel team manager, board member & travel director for nearly twenty years.

These changes are on an interim basis and will be re-evaluated when an Executive Director is hired, or once again at the end of the season. We’re excited about each of these individuals taking on additional responsibility and providing the support to you, our membership. Additionally, the following staff remain in their current roles: Stephanie Dukesherer (Marketing & Communications), Bob Kirk (House B Director), and Lynda Colvin (Bookkeeper). If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Frank Noonan.



KALAMAZOO, MI: Since becoming a USA Hockey Model Association (2013), the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) has committed to the American Development Model’s (ADM) ladders of development and the principles of long-term athlete development.

Encouraging kids to play multiple sports – especially at the younger ages – is something that KOHA supports as we develop well-rounded athletes, not just skilled hockey players.

One of KOHA’s 9 year-old players, Max Vandermolen, has had quite a memorable 2017 thus far. After a successful 16/17 season, he and his 10U hockey teammates were the Adray State Runners-Up in March, and then on Sunday, April 2nd, Max tied for second place in the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in the Boys 7-to-9 year-old division.

“Max has loved sports since he was a very small boy.  Playing golf and hockey brings him a lot of joy. Max says he likes to play more than one sport because he likes playing on his own for golf but really likes being part of a team for hockey. Golf is his first love but he loves hockey too,” said his parents Jim and Sarah Vandermolen.

When asked to talk about the benefits of Max being passionate about, and exceling at, more than one sport, and how the two complement each other, the Vandermolens pointed to some recurring themes in youth sports, “The biggest benefit so far is that Max doesn't have the burnout factor you see in a lot of one sport athletes even at this age. The multiple sports keeps him fresh and excited for the next sport of the season.” They went on to say, “Hockey and golf definitely compliment each other in a lot of ways. The main thing I see would be the hand eye coordination displayed in both sports. Hockey keeps his legs strong throughout the winter so in the summertime he uses his leg strength to generate a lot of power in his golf swing. Balance on his skates also helps with his balance in his golf swing. Mentally you need to be strong in both sports or in any sport to succeed. In golf you are alone playing against yourself and your thoughts. In hockey you have a team to think about. They balance each other out well.”
PC: Harry How/Getty Images Sport

KOHA’s Interim Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke (also USA Hockey’s Associate Coach in Chief & ADM Coordinator for the Michigan District, as well as being KOHA’s 2007 Head Coach), had this to say about Max, “I have had the opportunity to coach Max for multiple hockey seasons.  I had heard Max was an extraordinary golfer, but I was also excited because Max was not specializing in golf.  Max, while excelling at golf, was also playing hockey and baseball.  It was evident that Max was athletic, and transferring his skills and athletic movements to the rink.  I am confident his experience in hockey has improved his ability in golf, and vice versa.”

At KOHA, we believe giving them time away from the rink, allowing them to be kids, and allowing them to simply to have fun, garners far greater results (on the field/ice and off), decreases the chance of overuse injuries and burnout, and – perhaps most importantly - promotes a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.




The Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL) and the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) once again partnered with the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research (GLC) to host the 5th annual Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism event to raise funds for autism treatment and build autism awareness in our community. 
The event was held on January 28, 2017 and proceeds from the event benefit Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research whose mission is to partner with individuals and families affected by autism to improve their quality of life through effective and efficient diagnosis, assessment, and behaviorally-based treatment.

On Monday, April 10, 2017, sponsor and partner representatives along with event coordinators event gathered at the GLC's Lawrence Autism Center to present the largest check to-date! Thank you to everyone that played a part by volunteering, donating, or participating in this year's event and help guarantee its success. Thank you to the event sponsors: DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Wings West, SWMHSHL, KOHA, Kingscott, Miller Johnson and the Kalleward Group.

Pictured from left: Scott Schrum, ROI Chief Executive Officer, Greg Moore, Consumers Energy Community Affairs Manager, Se. Margaret O’Brien, Brian Bellware, KOHA Board President, Frank Noonan, SWMHSHL Commissioner and President, GLC Outpatient Services Director and Stephanie Dukesherer, KOHA Director of Marketing and Communications.



Did you know?

  • Autism is the fastest growing disability
  • 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism
  • Boys are nearly five times as likely than girls to have autism
  • A child can be diagnosed with autism as early as 18 months
  • The average diagnosis of autism is 4 years of age
  • Autism-related costs average $60,000 a year per family
  • Autism services cost U.S. citizens $232-262 billion annually



*If your child is just getting started with skating/hockey, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by calling the office at 269-349-7825.

Below is a breakdown of the programs offered by KOHA and some of the differences between them. This organizational chart is to help you make an informed decision about where to sign your child up for the 2017/18 hockey season. We hope you'll find this helpful in making the best choice for child's hockey development. If you have any further questions regarding any of the programs offered by KOHA, please feel free to contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Please note: 2009 birth years (and younger) MUST play age appropriate in our 8U (or 6U) program(s); 2005 birth years MUST play age appropriate at the PeeWee level.


 Our K-Wings & Lady K-Wings Travel (A/AA) programs are TRYOUT teams that play in the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League. Typically these teams practice 3 times/week (including one skills night) with games on the weekends, and anywhere from 2-4 tournaments (plus Districts), depending on the age group. Teams travel primarily within the state of Michigan, but do sometimes travel for an out-of-state tournament, typically in Ohio, Indiana or Illinois.

Tryouts are held in the spring (May), and are open to anyone. Some coaches typically hold bootcamps/team building events at the end of August, and regular practice begins after Labor Day.

TRAVEL A/AA - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam, JV)
Season length - September thru mid-March
Travel - Throughout Michigan and beyond
Experience - Competitive level athlete
League - LCAHL (Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League)
Practices - 3 per week (12 practice/month)
Games - 45-55. Detroit-based league. 4 tournaments
Sign up - Tryout sport, best players chosen from tryouts
Cost - Approx. $2,200-$2,800


Our Bronco House B programs are DRAFTED teams that play in the Adray League. Registration for this program, as required by Michigan Amateur Hockey Association rules, is open to ANYONE that wants to register. The drafts at each age division are monitored by a MAHA District 6 Chairperson assigned to help ensure our teams are balanced, and our drafts are conducted fairly. Our Bronco teams typically practice 3 times per week (including one skills night) with games on the weekends, as well as 2 tournaments, plus Districts and League tournaments. House B teams play primarily in West Michigan (including areas north of Grand Rapids), although may travel to Detroit or South Bend for a tournament. Evaluation skates are held at the end of August or beginning of September, and teams are DRAFTED generally in the beginning of September, with practices beginning right around the second week of September.

HOUSE B - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam)
Season length - September thru mid-March
Travel - West Michigan based league (Grand Rapids central)
Experience - Above average House C recreational player
League - ACHL (Adray Community Hockey League)
Practices - 3 per week (12 practices/month)
Games - 30-35. Mostly West Michigan. 2 tournaments
Sign up - Open sign-ups to all. Teams drafted.
Cost - Approx. $2,200-$2,500


The House C program is our "Weekend Warrior" program. Open registration, and teams play other teams within KOHA within the same age division. A mix of practices and games are held on Saturdays and Sundays only from mid-October through the beginning of March. The first 2-4 skates are treated as evaluation skates, and then a DRAFT is held at each age division. It is always our intent to create balanced teams so that every child has fun and enjoys coming to the rink every weekend.

HOUSE C - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam)
Season length - October thru mid-March
Travel - None, all local arenas
Experience - Recreational player
League - KOHA (Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association)
Practices - Saturday and Sunday only (1 hr each day, except game days)
Games - 14-18, Varies by division, all local
Sign up - Open sign-ups to all. Teams drafted.
Cost - Approx. $700

Our 6U & 8U programs run the same timeline as House C - for the 2017/18 season, these programs begin October 7 & 8, 2017 and run through March 10, 2018. The first two weekends (approximately) of the6u/8u programs are used to evaluate players and place them in divisions and on teams that are balanced by age and ability. Our goal is to ensure a successful development season for each child by placing them with players of like ability. Our 6U/8U programs are Saturdays and Sundays only and follow the same Holiday schedule as listed on the House C Teams page of our website.


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