It wasn’t until 10 years ago that hockey first appeared on Shelly Laukitis’ radar.
She wanted to challenge herself and learn how to play the sport and compete in an adult hockey league in Homer, Alaska. But learning to play hockey wasn’t her only goal. She realized that teaching young players and helping them appreciate the sport was something she had a passion for.
Laukitis, whose husband, Buck, is a longtime hockey player and former coach at Homer High School, got involved with the Homer Hockey Association and started out at the recruitment level. To fully immerse herself in the sport, she became a board member of the association in 2012.
“I just saw some needs at the rink that suited my interests and talents and passions,” Laukitis said.
Laukitis, 51, served as the vice president for two years before becoming the association’s president in April 2014, a position she currently holds.
“I’m fortunate to have board members who understand that we are a ‘working’ board and everyone pitches in,” Laukitis said. “Our hockey advisory committee takes on SafeSport, the ADM, try-hockey-for-free days, coaching education and team support. Our rink advisory committee deals with the operations and repairs of the rink as well as additional on-ice programing such as broomball, curling and figure skating.”
Starting out as a board member really paved the way for Laukitis and helped her understand the workings of the association as she transitioned into the president role.
“I think being a skater and then becoming a manager of a program and a coach, I just over time started to learn all the aspects of what it means to be a hockey association from all different perspectives,” Laukitis said. “The longer I was involved, the more I learned.”
The Homer Hockey Association has about 275 members, up from 200 when Laukitis took over as president nearly three years ago.
Numbers for all age groups have grown, including the 8U players who had just eight kids three years and now that number is up to 23.
“It was pretty alarming to be basing a hockey association, let alone an ice rink, on a really small roster of mites,” Laukitis said. “We decided that we were going to provide the first session of learn-to-skate for free, just to get more people to the rink. That’s really paid off.”
Laukitis still coaches and manages the learn-to-skate for kids ages 4-6. She calls that program — which has 40 kids this year — the foundation of the association.
“I love to watch a skater gain strength, coordination and confidence with every spill,” Laukitis said. “I love that we are creating active kids who are pursuing healthy activities.”
Laukitis also pops into 10U and 8U classes about once a week to coach an American Development Model (ADM) station.
Laukitis’ role as president has her overseeing committees and advisory panels to make sure they’re all functioning smoothly. Another big area Laukitis keeps an eye on is the association’s rink, Kevin Bell Arena.
The rink is operated and maintained entirely by the Homer Hockey Association, which doesn’t receive any local, state or federal aid.
“If you want this rink to happen in Homer, it’s up to us,” Laukitis said. “I just really saw the benefit that the rink was providing our community. Not even just hockey players, winter recreation across the board — school skate, community skate, public skate, just getting people out and active.”
When Laukitis took over as board president, she knew there were two main focuses of the Homer Hockey Association. She’s turned her attention to those areas her entire time in her leadership role.
“One was just increasing our skater base and skater recruitment, and we’re seeing some positive results of some initiatives that we’ve taken,” Laukitis said. “The other thing is the financial sustainability of our rink. Over the last few years we’ve been able to restructure our debt so that it is within our budget we have had for the last 10 years, which is something our board members and our finance committee works very, very hard towards.”
Laukitis’ two-year term as president is up in April and she’s decided to step away from that position.
“But I will definitely continue to focus in our learn-to-skate hockey program, that’s where my true passion lays,” Laukitis said. “Now that we’ve got really strong numbers and we’ve got a sustainable financial future ahead, I feel that the board and the association are in really good hands.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): Behind the Glass News