Since 1975 the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Assoc. (KPHA) has provided thousands of the community’s youth ages 4-17, the opportunity to follow their dreams on the ice. From their first learn to skate session to national championships KPHA has been instrumental in channeling the energy of youth into positive life experiences through the game of hockey. “I started playing with the Assoc. when I was nine years old and worked my up through the years then played some hockey out of state and returned to play with the Anchorage Aces and won a national championship with them in 1994. Now I’m back home wanting to share some of the tools I’ve learned through the years by giving back to the Association that I originated from,” said Johnny Bea, KPHA coach for the Peewee B’s during a tour of the new Dryland Center. According to Bea the new Center gives coaches new tools for training and improving player’s skills of the ice for when they are on the ice, “Now while there is nothing better than training on the ice, here we have tools that will work on players form, stride, stick handling, passing, shooting aids and a goalie slide board that teachers proper positioning and play for a goalie,” explained Coach Bea.
Last year Coach Dr. Ted Barton took the KPHA Girls Tier II Ice Hawks to the Pacific Regional Tournament in Anaheim, California and lost in the championship game by one goal in double overtime, “If we had won we would have advanced to nationals, that’s how good this team is. But they’re back here training and working hard with many of the same girls who have some very high ambitions with what they want to do with their hockey careers and taking it to the next level in college. To help them achieve their dreams KPHA has gotten this Dryland facility going and my hats off to them and folks like Scott Sheldon and Johnny Bea and many others on the KPHA board who were instrumental in putting it together,” said Barton. 14-year-old Taylor Sheldon was part of the Ice Hawk team that lost that championship, but she says she is more determined that ever, “It hurt! There aren’t words to describe how bad it felt, heartbreaking but a good experience for our team to feel that kind of pain. When we started this season it solidified our determination to work harder. We’re excited with this new Dryland facility, I really want to earn a hockey college scholarship and this will help us get there,” she said.
“I would encourage parents to encourage their kids to get involved with this great game of hockey, its great exercise and fun to do, but most of all its fun and the harder you work the more fun it becomes,” said Coach Barton. The Dryland Center also features a projection system where a coach can plug in his camcorder and go over game films or run cardio programs that teams can work out with. The shooting tarps allow players to perfect different types of shots like slap and wrist shots on synthetic ice that simulates the feel of the puck on ice. Coach Bea and Barton also expressed appreciation to Epperheimer painting, Mud Man Dry Wall, Home Depot, Doors & Windows, Dan’s TV & Appliance and Corey’s Handyman for their support of the new Dryland Center. KPHA utilizes both the Soldotna Sports Center and the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility for games and practice sessions. To learn more about KPHA activities and opportunities go to www.kpha.net.