Partnership will bring Finnish coach to Kalamazoo for 2019-20 season
The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association is joining forces with a Finnish sports training center.
KOHA and The Sports Institute of Finland – Vierumäki – are forming a partnership to place an intern coach at KOHA for the 2019-20 season. Vierumäki is home to the International Ice Hockey Centre of Excellence, which organizes numerous educational events and training camps, produces educational material and compiles research data. IIHCE develops and maintains the Hockey Centre ice hockey resource website.
The intern coming to Kalamazoo for the 2019-20 season from the IIHCE will be Kalle Virtanen. A native of Lahti, Finland, Virtanen has spent the last several years coaching with the largest youth club in Finland, the Pelicans, and served most recently as the head coach of their U16 team. He speaks three languages – Finnish, English and Swedish – and brings to KOHA a variety of strengths such as creating training programs fostering proper technique, useful dietary information and planning for athletes, skating instruction as well as shooting and scoring development expertise.
“Creating the intern position is just one more way that KOHA continues to push the envelope in providing great development to players and coaches alike, while providing exemplary service and value to their parents,” said USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Bob Mancini in a release.
Aspen (CO) Junior Hockey formed a similar partnership with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association for the 2016-17 season.
“Finland is a relatively small country that has seen tremendous success on hockey’s international stage, which is a testament to their development philosophies and culture,” said KOHA’s Hockey Director Matt Kakabeeke. “Aspen Junior Hockey created a similar partnership a couple of seasons ago, and when I heard about it, I thought, why can’t we do that here in Kalamazoo? We have the resources, vision and board support to be a national leader for youth hockey.”
Virtanen will also work with KOHA’s partners Athletic Mentors, the Western Michigan University hockey program and the Kalamazoo Wings of the East Coast Hockey League.
“As a KOHA parent, I am extremely excited that KOHA is providing our young players the opportunity to work with a young and energetic coach from Finland’s leading sports institute,” Kalamazoo Wings coach Nick Bootland said. “In my role as head coach of the Kalamazoo Wings, I look forward to having Kalle involved from a development perspective, where he can provide input from a country that continually produces elite athletes and players.”
KOHA, which was established in 1965, celebrates its 55th season in 2019-20.