KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Matt Kakabeeke has been hired as the association’s Executive Director, effective August 9, 2021. Kakabeeke currently serves as KOHA’s Hockey Director and has been in that role for four years while also serving as USA Hockey’s Associate Coaching Director-in-Chief for the Michigan District since 2007.
The Executive Director position has been vacant since Frank Noonan stepped down last August to focus on family and KOHA’s recreational programs. With the uncertainty of the 2020-21 season, the board and staff navigated unusual circumstances as a result of the pandemic while continuing to focus on player development and program delivery.
Still, it was a board priority to have an Executive Director in place heading into the 2021-22 season in which KOHA will host USA Hockey’s 14U Tier II National Championship Tournament. After posting the position on both the KOHA and the American Hockey Coaches Association websites, nine qualified applications were received. The Executive Committee and Dave Toth (Operations Director) scored the applicants and met to decide on final candidates to interview. Two candidates were brought in and the committee unanimously agreed to offer the position to Kakbeeke.
KOHA Board President, Dianne Shaffer, said, “I'm excited about the skills Matt brings to this position. Throughout the process, it became glaringly obvious that what we need is someone with extensive hockey knowledge, a passion for development, and the ability to connect in the community. Matt’s background in hockey, combined with his leadership in federal law enforcement and the human services industry, and his commitment to player development checks all of those boxes. He brings an unmatched passion for KOHA from his youth hockey days, being a both parent and former board member in the organization, coaching throughout the last 30 years, and being our current Hockey Director.”
“I am excited for this opportunity. KOHA has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember so this next step really brings it all full circle. For the last handful of years, I have been focused on being the best Hockey Director I could be for this association - implementing processes and building a skills staff that is committed to player development. I believe, as a team, we have accomplished a tremendous amount and am ready to lead this association - my home club - into the future,” Kakabeeke said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as KOHA’s Hockey Director, and I look forward to making an impact away from the ice and in our community by collaborating with our players, parents, coaches and partners to make KOHA a club everyone can be proud of.”
Kakabeeke will begin to transition into his new role at the conclusion of the current season.