As a brand new franchise, no matter the league or sport, starting off with all the right pieces can be hard; regardless of how talented a group of people are, or how talented an individual may be. To start off the month of February, the Seattle Ravens – the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s newest franchise – named Adam Kurtenbach as the team’s new head coach.
Kurtenbach’s experience with coaching and playing hockey is extensive. His résumé also includes a championship. Kurtenbach said, “it all started when I began playing hockey at the age of four. That’s because my father was a professional hockey player, so playing hockey was very much apart of our family dynamic.”
Growing up with a father who was a former Captain of the Vancouver Canucks, it propelled Kurtenbach to higher levels of hockey; levels that kids across the nation dream about. He said, “I played Junior A Hockey for about a year up in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the New Westminster Bruins and the Vancouver Blazers. My time in junior hockey was extremely enjoyable. But after I broke my wrist in a couple places, I turned more to lacrosse because it was the one sport that I could play with a cast on.”
“You see; my junior hockey journey was a little different than most. While I was in British Colombia, I had been one of the top players until about the age of 14. Around then, my father took over as the head coach of the Tulsa Oilers, which was the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team. So I spent the next two years playing hockey in Tulsa,” continued Kurtenbach.
Making the transition between hockey teams, and leagues, can be difficult. The level of play isn’t always the same across the board. Kurtenbach said, “the level of hockey in Tulsa was quite a bit different than British Columbia. So it was a difficult transition when I went back to Vancouver. This is because I had been one of the best players, and then all of a sudden, I was struggling to play on the third or fourth line at the next level.”
As previously stated, Kurtenbach’s injury turned him away from hockey and pushed him towards lacrosse. He said, “I always loved playing hockey. But after my injury, it was something I enjoyed less. I wanted to go back to enjoying it, so I took a year off. At that point, I managed to receive a lacrosse scholarship to play college lacrosse in California.”
After this injury, Kurtenbach’s career as a player came to and end. But during his playing career in British Columbia, Kurtenbach started coaching and teaching skating lessons around the age of 18. But after he left British Columbia to pursue an undergraduate degree while playing college lacrosse, Kurtenbach took some time off from coaching. He said, “I didn’t start coaching again until I came back out here to the Pacific Northwest, which was about 12 or 13 years ago.”
“I returned to coaching because when we moved back here to Seattle, my son was old enough to play hockey. While being here, and watching my son play hockey, it was apparent that teams needed coaches. So I stepped up, seized the opportunity, and volunteered my time,” said Kurtenbach.
In order to be a coach, it takes passion for the sport and dedication to the players. This is something that Kurtenbach takes to heart. He said, “I love coaching and I always have. I like watching kids have that ‘ah-ha’ moment while progressing their skills.”
This love and passion for coaching led to Kurtenbach creating his own team. He said, “out here in Kent, we put together a team called the Seattle Stars. So for about five or six years, I had the same group of kids together.”
With that group of kids, Kurtenbach was able to watch them achieve numerous feats at the next level. He said, “we were actually the first team in 30 years to make it to the tier I nationals out of Washington state. Now we have four players from that program playing in the Western Hockey League. One of those players was the rookie of the year last year. Then there were two players who have had the opportunity to play on the US National team. It was exciting for me to see these kids be able to get these opportunities.”
As Kurtenbach looks to right the ship in Kent, he is also looking at the bigger picture, which is the hockey community in the Pacific Northwest. He said, “the Pacific Northwest hockey community has been underserved from a coaching standpoint and the number of opportunities for kids moving forward. We have to do a much better job of moving these kids into better programs and the NPHL truly gives these players an opportunity to do that.”
With five games remaining on this season’s schedule, the Ravens are set to take on the Tri-City Outlaws and Wenatchee Wolves for three of the team’s final five games.
Tomorrow, tune in to the NPHL’s website for a full recap following the conclusion of the final game.
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