As one of the largest associations in Michigan, it can sometimes be difficult to feel connected to our KOHA family, as a whole. We are fortunate to have a large member base, filled with kiddos that are not only developing on the ice by setting and conquering personal goals throughout each season, but in many cases, also doing great things off the ice as well.

Our values include the belief that hockey serves as an effective vehicle to develop character, dignity and self-esteem; therefore, as an association, we promote a positive culture from parents, coaches and staff to instill the values of integrity, hard work, determination, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence in all activities.

We are excited to launch the KOHA KIDS FEATURE, which highlights players demonstrating character, compassion and integrity away from the ice. Our first two features (Alex Hufford and Brandon Murray) are here, and here. Please check them out if you have not already done so - they certainly make KOHA's staff and board members quite proud to call them ours.

If you know someone in the KOHA community (past or present) that you'd like to see highlighted in an upcoming KOHA KIDS FEATURE, please contact Stephanie Dukesherer at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



"I got this."

Anyone who knows Brandon Murray knows that's his mantra. Now 13, Brandon was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in January of 2010, when he was 10 years old and in the middle of his Squirt House C hockey season. "His diagnosis was very unexpected. We were told in the PICU that if we'd waited to take him to the ER, he would've ended up in a coma or worse," says Brandon's mother, Hope DeJong. "During his stay at the hospital he found strength and courage that I couldn't have found and he was only 10 years old," she says. "He became determined to learn everything he could about his new 'normal' and started using his catch phrase, 'I got this'. Prior to his diagnosis he started losing interest in hockey which was concerning as the boy loves hockey!"

Since his diagnosis, Brandon has worked very hard to raise funds for JDRF and is committed to finding a cure. He has coordinated local pizza fundraisers, has ridden his bike to raise funds and awareness, and is about to participate in the JDRF One Walk (formerly Walk to Cure Diabetes) on October 10, 2015. This will be his second walk, and to-date he has raised almost $3,000 in the walks alone to find a cure. Click here to donate to Brandon's fundraising page.

This summer, Brandon was one of 163 worldwide delegates - out of 1600 applicants - to attend JDRF Children's Congress, “to make a difference for others who have T1D and for the many who don’t understand it,” says Brandon. The children, all under the age of 18, gathered from all over to meet with legislators and storm Capitol Hill to advocate for funding required for education, treatment, prevention and cure of the disease. Brandon was 1 of 3 delegates from Michigan.  He met with Representative Upton, a member from Senator Peters office and provided information to Senator Stabenow's office. The trip to DC ended with the children attending a live congressional hearing to advocate and rally.

"Brandon has given a talk to a local Lions Club and is always taking the opportunity to educate others on the seriousness of Type 1. He's become an expert in a subject we hope to find a cure so no other families have to experience this life or death disease, " says DeJong. "Brandon remains an avid hockey player and advocate for T1D. He's very open about his auto-immune disease and loves to educate others. Brandon wants a cure in his lifetime and we know we are close to it. He depends on his insulin so if you see something hanging from his pocket, know that it is his insulin pump. He can have some pretty wicked blood sugar lows on and off the ice. His Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) became the newest addition to our family this summer and alerts us to highs and lows."

Brandon hopes to become a nurse and diabetes educator when he grows up. “I am most proud of being strong and not letting type 1 diabetes rule me," he says. "I want (everyone) to know that I won’t let this disease win.”

You've got this, Brandon. Your KOHA family is proud of you!

See you at the rink.




Dick Stack, founder of DICK'S Sporting Goods, believed that sports play a vital role in teaching our children fundamental values like a strong work ethic, teamwork and good sportsmanship. He also understood that supporting the organizations that make youth sports possible is the best way to promote those values. Today, that legacy continues.

KOHA's mission is to provide every boy and girl in southwest Michigan the opportunity to enjoy and excel at the game of hockey. With the support of corporate partners such as DICK'S Sporting Goods, our vision to become a regional hockey destination and a national leader for youth hockey truly is an attainable goal.

KOHA would like to thank DICK'S Sporting Goods (DSG) for its support as we kickoff the 2015/16 season. Aside from outfitting the KOHA Skills Team with new on and off-ice gear, DSG is a corporate sponsor for our brand new, kickoff Jamboree event for the 8U program!

DSG is also offering some great deals to KOHA members - simply click on the image above and show it to the cashier at checkout to take advantage of their convenient e-coupons.

Pictured L to R: David Killip, Travis Sabin, Chris Brassard, Brian Tulik, Matt Bland, Tom Askey
(Photo Credit: Casey Spring Photography)




One of the beloved traditions in hockey is the recognition that occurs within the locker room at the end of each game. Typically, a player who exemplifies a particular quality is given an award that is symbolic of that characteristic. For example, the Detroit Red Wings' player who 'digs in' in that game is awarded with a special shovel that the team created. That shovel is held by that player until the next game and then passed on to the next recipient. Some teams have very creative recognition such as a shovel, a hard hat or a special suit, and some simply use the game puck.

At KOHA, we have a fantastic team of paid staff members that manage most of the day-to-day operations; however, their work is complemented by many volunteers at every level. We wanted to create a simple and fun way to recognize those volunteers that go above and beyond in their role. Instead of a hard hat or game puck, we wanted to award something that was symbolic of the generous spirit that embodies the heart of a volunteer.

Introducing...the Pelican Award! For centuries, the pelican has served as a symbol of selfless generosity. In fact, Noble families frequently included the pelican in their family crests as an icon of devotion and generosity. This symbolism is rooted in the sacrificial care that pelican parents provide their young.

At each Board meeting, a volunteer will be recognized for above and beyond generosity of their time, talents or treasures. The volunteer will be selected by the previous month's recipient and will have the privilege of caring for the Pelican until the next Board meeting. We expect to get lots of pictures of the Pelican visiting the homes, workplaces and hockey destinations of the award recipient!

As a Board of Directors, we are grateful for each one of the many volunteers that give so generously of their time, talents and treasures. Your dedication and generosity is pivotal to making the youth hockey experience the best it can be for our kids - thank you!

Brian J. Bellware
KOHA Board President



KOHA is pleased to announce its new ADM Director & Skills Team lineup for 2015/16

Joining the KOHA Skills Team taking over the reigns as the ADM Skills Director, is Western Michigan University alum and Kelowna, British Columbia native, David Killip. Killip played three seasons for the Bronco Hockey program, and was named Student-Assistant Coach his senior year after being sidelined due to injuries sustained during his junior season. “We are excited to have someone with David’s passion and knowledge of the game on the ice with our coaches and young players. David will help us continue to focus on player development and will be a terrific asset to our association,” said Brian Tulik, KOHA’s Program Director.
“Having my playing career end so suddenly was definitely disappointing, but I am so thankful to Coach (Andy) Murray and the administration for giving me the opportunity to stay involved for my senior season by naming me Student-Assistant Coach. I have always had a passion for coaching, and I am really looking forward to working with the youth in Kalamazoo to help develop their game and be the best they can be,” said Killip. “The focus on player development, and coaching the right things, in the right way, at the optimal time for each player, is exciting. I am really looking forward to the season with KOHA.”

Another “rookie” to the KOHA Skills Team this season, is KOHA coaching veteran, Matt Bland, a Level 4 USA Certified coach. Bland has been a coach in our K-Wings travel program for several years, and is making the switch to our Skills Team for this season. “Matt has done a terrific job as a coach in our program, and we are excited to be able to utilize his strengths to help all of our players develop,” said Tulik. Bland played Jr B hockey with the Motor City Chiefs in the late 90s, and has been a player favorite during his coaching tenure with KOHA.

Returning Skills Team coaches for the 2015/16 season include:
Chris Brassard played professionally across the US and in Germany. While having worked as a hockey skills director/instructor for many years, Chris most recently has been involved in Graeme Townshends' National Hockey Development school delivering programs designed by NHL skating and skills coaches. Aside from working with KOHA as our Skating Skills Director for the past two seasons, Chris is also entering his third season with the WMU Stallions (Club) as their head coach.
Travis Sabin is a Level 4 USA Hockey certified coach who coached for several years in KOHA's Travel program, as well as behind on the bench for the Kalamazoo Blades Varsity high school hockey team. Travis has been actively involved with KOHA's development programs for the last several years, including our 8U program, various camps and our Pre-Travel Tryout clinics. We are excited about having Travis back for a third season as a member of our Skills Team.
Tom Askey has been involved in KOHA, as our travel teams' goalie coach, for the last several years. Tom played four seasons with The Ohio State University, and several years of professional hockey (NHL, AHL, IHL & in Europe) after being drafted by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Tom is the goalie coach for the WMU Bronco Hockey team, and we are excited to have him as KOHA’s goalie coach for our entire program.

A huge thank you to KOHA's departing ADM Director, Eric Babcock who helped our program successfully navigate the on-ice implementation of the ADM, and was an instrumental part in our successes - on and off the ice - as a USA Hockey Model Association. Babcock will once again be co-coaching the '05s (Squirt AA K-Wings), and will help on-ice with skills nights and other clinics periodically throughout the season as needed.


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