Ever since her first date with her future husband 47 years ago, hockey has been a huge part of Donna Kaufman’s life.
She has always worn many different hats in and around the sport, from volunteering for local associations, to being a rink owner, and serving on USA Hockey’s Board of Directors. For Kaufman, hockey is her everyday livelihood.
Kaufman has had many volunteer roles, including with the Pacific Northwest Amateur Hockey Association, where she served as vice president for one season (1996-97), before taking on the role of president from 1997-2005.
Kaufman’s involvement at the national level began in 2005 when she was elected to the USA Hockey Board of Directors as a director for the Pacific District. Then, in 2018, she got the opportunity to play a larger role with USA Hockey when she was elected as a vice president of the organization and chair of the Junior Council.
A native of Lima, Ohio, finds it extremely rewarding to work with junior level-aged hockey players.
Kaufman feels that the 16-to 20-year-olds who play junior hockey are at a time in their life where they’re getting to choose how the vehicle of hockey fits to the future of who they are going to be.
“Similar to middle school being the bridge between elementary and high school, I believe junior hockey is the bridge between youth hockey and either college/professional or adult hockey,” Kaufman said. “It’s a unique time with volatile challenges for those players. I understand the importance of providing a positive environment for them. With my experience in youth, junior and adult hockey, I contribute to national discussions, provide insight for solutions and work on programs that continue to make USA Hockey a valued leader in the community — one which creates a safe, fun experience for all participants.”
Kaufman has tried to make a difference during her first couple years on the Junior Council, and while she has her sights set on answering questions like “How do we become more inclusive for the business owner who wants to be part of USA Hockey?” and “How do we strengthen our brand of junior hockey for USA Hockey?,” her immediate concerns are surrounding the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re focused right now on how we return to hockey in the midst of this COVID issue,” said Kaufman. “We’re addressing things like what the rinks look like in September, how do we play games, and how do we help everybody navigate the next six to nine months?”
With two years left on her current term, Kaufman’s goal is to continue to help expand opportunities in junior hockey.
“I’d like to see USA Hockey strong past the Mississippi west,” Kaufman said. “We don’t have very much junior hockey all the way to the West Coast.”
Getting into Hockey
Kaufman became a hockey parent in 1989 when the first of her three boys started playing the sport. All three went on to play college hockey: Robert at Milwaukee School of Engineering (Division III), Christopher at Robert Morris (D-I) and Brandyn at Central Washington University (club hockey).
In 1990, Kaufman started volunteering for hockey associations. With Tacoma Junior Hockey, she served as secretary, then treasurer and finally president until ’96.
It was in 1992 that Kaufman and her husband, Rob, built the Puget Sound Hockey Center in Tacoma. That facility stayed opened until 2016.
“That first rink wasn’t really the rink we wanted, it was a 240 by 100 feet free-span building and we popped an NHL rink inside that building,” Kaufman said. “There was a plan to move ever since we had got there.”
In about 2015, a building came on the market that was being used for indoor soccer. The footprint was there, along with the building and parking lot, to make the dream happen for a two-sheet rink about 2 ½ times bigger than the old one.
The final piece of glass was installed at Tacoma Twin Rinks on Feb. 28 of this year and it hosted the Pacific District tournament not long after. But on March 16, the building had to be shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t been really able to realize it,” Kaufman said.
Along with a fitness center, restaurant, office space, pro shop and party rooms in the rink, many more on-ice activities have been added including figure skating, curling and disabled hockey. The rink is also junior hockey ready if a team happened to come to the Tacoma area.
“We trying to do things that really aren’t being done in the Northwest,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman continues to offer more and more opportunities for young players in her local area to get into hockey, while simultaneously helping open doors nationwide at the junior hockey level.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.