KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) hosted the Michigan Amatuer Hockey Association (MAHA) 8U Half-Ice State Tournament on March 3rd & 4th. Nearly 60 teams descended upon Kalamazoo from across the state playing nearly 110 games at both Wings West and Wings Event Center locations.
The 8U tournament had three divisions (Red, White, and Blue), and KOHA fielded one team in each division. In the end, the KOHA teams each made it to the Championship game of their respective divisions, and the KOHA Blue team came out victorious! Having a state championship and two runner-up finishes from one Association in the same year, is a state record!
While the KOHA 8U teams battled for State titles in Kalamazoo, the KOHA 16U Lady K-Wings were in Alpena for their State Championship weekend. The Lady K-Wings came home victorious having defeated a team from Kalkaska in the finals to win the MAHA 16U Girls Tier 3 Championship!
Since its inception in 1965, KOHA has never seen such success in one season. Much of the on-ice improvement can be attributed to KOHA’s development philosophy in adopting USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM); Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke, says “it’s an exciting time for youth hockey in Kalamazoo. Our kids have access to some high-level players and coaches on a regular basis. Our Skills Team consists of former Division 1 College players, current and former pro players, as well as elite level coaches from the college, and professional ranks.” He goes on to say that “our partnership with Athletic Mentors off the ice has provided our kids the opportunity to focus on strength and conditioning that is producing on-ice results.”
USA Hockey’s ADM Regional Manager, Bob Mancini, is impressed with KOHA’s contributions to youth hockey, “Although it hasn't always been easy or popular, KOHA has embraced a player development model focusing on improving individual skills and long term athlete development. Often times, chasing wins becomes too important, and it’s hard to stay the course and do what’s right from a development perspective. But KOHA has an incredible staff on and off the ice. They get it. They’re committed to developing every player and providing the best environment in which to succeed. I’ve been on the ice with associations all over the country, and KOHA is among the associations that continually knock it out of the park - especially at the younger ages. I am not the least bit surprised that their teams are having success. They’re putting in the work, the right way, week in and week out - and proving that proper development and winning can go hand in hand. That’s the way youth sports should be overall, not just hockey. KOHA is putting Kalamazoo on the map as a leader in doing things the right way, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s paying off for them.”