Leafs partner up with Finland youth guru Valiaho for ’16-17
Aspen Junior Hockey (AJH) has taken giant leaps leading into the 2016-17 season to quickly become a world-class leader in youth hockey player development and that has started in earnest with the program partnering with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association (FIHA), employing Finland’s manager of youth hockey operations Kalle Valiaho.
Valiaho, who is one of the most influential coaches in international youth hockey, plans to take a six-month sabbatical from his position in Finland and immerse himself exclusively in Aspen for the season. He will work with AJH executive director Shaun Hathaway strengthening the age-appropriate curriculum and long-term athletic development plan offered by the Leafs.
This unprecedented partnership between FIHA and AJH has also resonated on an extremely positive note with USA Hockey.
“Being the Rocky Mountain District ADM regional manager, one of the best parts of the job is helping youth hockey programs become world-leading programs within their community,” said USA Hockey’s Joe Bonnett. “I have watched Shaun Hathaway and his staff work with conviction and excellence to improve Aspen Junior Hockey significantly over the past three years and become leaders of youth sport in their region. By adding a mentor coach and FIHA coach in Kalle Valiaho, AJH again has demonstrated a commitment to continual improvement and continues to raise the bar for their athletes.”
FIHA organizes and operates youth hockey in Finland and had 72,176 registered players last season, compared to 542,583 registered U.S. players.
Since 2009, Valiaho has worked as a regional coach, responsible for two of eight FIHA regions. He has been an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) mentor coach since 2007 and his youth coaching experience includes time in Finland, Hungary and China.
In 2006, Valiaho graduated from the prestigious Haaga University in Vierumaki, Finland, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports and Leisure Management. In December 2016, he is expected to complete his Master’s degree in Sport Studies.
– Matt Mackinder