Every Tuesday night, the Juha family rents ice out at the Fort Myers (Florida) Skatium.
Dad Bob and mom Melanie are out on the ice with their three adult kids: Justin, Tiffany and Mindy. Friends are invited to the weekly scrimmage/pickup game, and the adults have a lot of fun on and off the ice.
One big reason Tiffany has been skating for the last 27 years is because she enjoys that activity with her tight-knit family.
“Honestly, I think it’s the only reason I still play,” Tiffany said. “It is fun.”
Those weekly skates aren’t the only time the Juhas hit the rink together. Tiffany and twin sister, Mindy, whose last name is Kackley, usually play on the same team as their mom. Even after two knee replacements, Melanie is still skating around with her daughters. The ladies play on the Gulf Coast Seagals in the Florida Women’s Hockey League (FWHL), and dad just so happens to coach the team.
Tiffany has always had a close relationship with her family, noted her college hockey coach at California University of Pennsylvania, Dave Yanko.
“They’ve always had a family team,” Yanko said. “She always said her favorite coach was always her dad, and I’ll never come close to that. Although, I did try. I’ll never come close to that.”
Said Tiffany: “I know the game as well as I do because my dad coached me my whole life. He makes it rhyme on his line every Tuesday, because we pass really well.”
Picking up skating at 6 years old, Tiffany has never slowed down. She also plays in a Sunday night league at the Fort Myers Skatium.
For her dedication to hockey, Tiffany Juha was named the USA Hockey Adult Player of the Year, presented by Labatt Blue.
Juha, who grew up in Pittsburgh, feels honored to win the prestigious award, although jokingly wondered how her hockey legacy stacks up to other recipients.
“I think it’s amazing, but I feel like they made a mistake,” Juha joked. “When I see the people that have won it in the past and everything, it’s just kind of like, why are they putting me in there?”
Yanko said his former pupil is very deserving of the award, and knows exactly why she was selected.
“Her love for the game — she always brought a professional attitude,” Yanko said. “She was there ready to work. She loved the game. This opportunity and this award speak so highly to her character.”
Yanko coached Juha for two seasons in college about a decade ago. Her passion for hockey is still as strong today as it was back then.
Juha had a successful three-year career at California University of Pennsylvania, which is an ACHA D3 school, being named team MVP as a sophomore and senior. She still holds school records for hat tricks (18), power-play points (27) and power-play goals (18).
During her senior year, Juha was selected to play in the 2011 Winter World University Games in Erzurum, Turkey. It was the first time in the Games’ history that the United States sent a women’s team.
“That was by far probably the highlight of her career,” Yanko said. “She was excited, she really was. She absolutely deserved it. With her speed, with her attitude, her play, she had all the right tools.”
Juha, who called it her coolest hockey experience by far, felt honored to represent the U.S. in the competition.
“I still wear my helmet that has the USA stickers on it that I got there. People might think I’m a dork,” Juha said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, where’d you get your cool USA stickers?’ I’m like, ‘No. Those are legit stickers.’”
Once Juha was finished with college, she moved back down to Florida and wanted to swiftly get back on the ice. Juha, her mom and sister wanted to skate in the FWHL, but the Fort Myers Skatium didn’t have a team.
No big deal. Juha organized the formation of the team, bringing together players who didn’t fit on the other teams in the league. That team surprised everyone and won the league title in its first year.
Juha has also competed in the USA Hockey Adult Women’s National Championships “four or five times” over the years, winning the Women’s B League title in 2014. This past April, Juha, her mom and sister played on the Saucy Llamas in the Adult Women’s Nationals 30+ Tier 2 division. Despite not winning a game in the tournament, Juha enjoyed the experience.
Juha never misses a chance to get on the ice. Why is hockey so important to her?
“It’s fun and I don’t want to sound conceited, but it’s easy for me,” Juha said. “I’ve been doing it so long that I like being one of the best people out there when I’m playing.”
At 33 years old, Juha has plenty of years left on the ice — she wants to make sure of that.
“I played with a lady, the one team I play goalie for, I think she’s in her 70s now,” Juha said. “I plan to play forever.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.