The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced the hiring of two coaching interns, Colin Martel and Jukka Konstas.
Martel and Konstas will spend a year with the Lumberjacks to complete their bachelor’s degrees with the Vierumäki Sports Institute. Both are well-revered among their International Ice Hockey Federation peers and aspire to be hockey coaches. They will be involved in many aspects of the Jacks’ daily operation. They also will be at the forefront of the Jacks’ expanding initiatives in youth hockey.
Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick met Martel and Konstas at a Team USA National Select camp last summer and immediately was impressed.
“We’re very excited to have both of them involved in our program and to be able to play a role in them developing into great hockey coaches is a privilege,” Patrick said. “They’ll bring a lot of energy to the operation and can bring some outside-the-box thinking to the table.”
“The opportunity to spend a season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the top U.S. junior league is unique,” USA Hockey senior director of hockey development Kevin McLaughling said. “The ability to be mentored by high-level coaches and an exceptional hockey operations staff will give Jukka and Colin tremendous insight into the real world of sports enterprises and prepare both young men for a career in hockey.”
Upon completion of their internship, Martel and Konstas will be required to complete a thesis to obtain their degrees. USA Hockey has provided support for the Vierumäki Coaching Degree Program in the past. Faculty at the Vierumäki campus includes some of the Finnish National Team coaches, and last year the entire program was headed by Erkka Westerland, the former Finland Olympic coach.
Konstas, 28, is an Oulu, Finland, native and long has either played as a goaltender or worked specifically in developing puckstoppers on and off the ice.
“I want to share my knowledge and help individuals to achieve all they can,” Konstas said. “The reward from coaching for me is when you see the development in an athlete, not just on the ice, but also as a person. Championships are just the side product.”
Konstas’ driving force has been following and working with Mika Tarvainen, who works as goalie coach of Swedish Elite league team Timrå IK. Tarvainen is the first Finnish professional goalie coach working abroad.
“His passion and knowledge has guided me a lot during my career,” Konstas said.
Konstas is a firm believer in the Jacks’ brand of hockey – fast and physical.
“I want pucks to be delivered to net and players to have the attitude to drive there,” Konstas said. “I appreciate hard work and giving everything you have, battling every situation to end.”
Konstas graduated as a sports counselor from the Sport Institute of Lapland and feels that in his two years with Vierumäki he’s been able to refine his skills into hockey-specific knowledge. Like Martel, he has extensive experience with computers and video analysis. Konstas’ season with the Jacks will be his seventh altogether as a coach.
Martel, 20, has served as a coach with the Vierumäki A-Juniors and has extensive experience in video analysis and assisted in a crucial IIHF project – determining its rink-size standardization. He is computer savvy and also has served as an international student coach with USA Hockey.
“My main strength as a coach is understanding the game of hockey very well,” Martel said. “I also am a strong speaker, strong in relaying information to the players I coach. As a younger coach, I feel that I can relate with the kids in many situations.”
Both players have been chomping at the bit to join the Jacks in the premier junior league in the nation.
“I believe this is going to be the greatest year of our lives,” Konstas said. “The chance to come work in a professional organization like Jacks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m excited to work with players and staff that are committed to what they are doing and work toward the common goal.”
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