If you would have asked 6U Ice Puppies Coach Brandon Waller if he thought coaching youth hockey in Fairbanks, Alaska was in his future – he probably would have said no. But like a lot of coaches in interior Alaska, here we are. Along with his band of brothers in the coaching fraternity, the Fairbanks residents were pushed outside their comfort zones and thrust into duty. And like Brandon, overwhelmingly all of them are so glad they did.

Coaches at the 8U level must go through a completed background check, Safe Sport certification, and USA Hockey training modules to become eligible coaches on the ice with Grizzlies student athletes. The nominal fees to complete the certification process are often reimbursed by the hockey association, which is the case with the Alaska Grizzlies. Coaches who mentor student athletes in the Jr Grizzlies Academy program also enjoy the added benefit of a robust support staff that includes coaching coordinator Kerry Hafele and other coaches who have decades of experience.

The first half of the Ice Puppies season was absolutely incredible. I love teaching these kids how to skate and play hockey. The improvement I’ve seen so far from all the players is so rewarding for me personally, and that’s what I enjoy the most about coaching this team. – Brandon Waller, Coach 6U

The Jr Grizzlies Academy coaching staff is an impressive list of HVAC Technicians, business owners, and IT techsters who are looking to give back to their community through sports. Much like they do during their work hours, the opportunity to be a youth sports coach gives coaches additional opportunities to mentor youth, work on personal skills such as communication and goal setting, and continue their love for the game of hockey. Even if sometimes they don’t love the sport. Yet. 

Being a youth sports coach can be a rewarding and fruitful experience for parents and their young athletes. Having the chance to positively effect the mental, physical, and emotional development can bear fruit long after the athlete has completed their youth hockey experience. If you would like to be one of the few who have the chance to pour into the lives and development of the next great wave of hockey athletes, we’d love to have you. Like Brandon and the rest of his comrades on the 8U coaching staff for the Jr Grizzlies Academy – we dare you to take the leap into mentorship.



The Alaska Grizzlies Academy is a specialized curriculum designed to advance youth athletes by leveraging modern training techniques – USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) – with the acquisition of sport specific skills in the game of hockey. Development for our youngest athletes within or program is achieved by focusing on reduced player to coach ratios (sometimes down to a 1:1 ratio) and grouped skill sets. Creating a safe training environment with low numbers that includes a program cap, a mitigation plan that … (MORE)

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.