What drives a young couple to drop everything in Canada, put their lives on hold and travel to the other side of the world together for the love of sport, an adventure and the experience of a lifetime?
Photo:: Debra Jean Photography
Kim Couper and Jeff Martens have done just that to spend 6 months in Australia. Martens, the North Stars forward who is currently the leading AIHL Goal Scorer, and Couper are a dynamic couple who not only sought the chance to spend time together after a busy Northern Hemisphere season but took the opportunity to enhance the experience by working together off the ice as well.
In Canada the hockey season goes from September to April however during Spring & Summer things aren’t quiet as intense, they encourage a lighter load on the athletes during this time, so the chance for Kim and Jeff to come to Australia worked out perfectly.
Couper explains, “The whole idea of coming to Australia truly became a reality when Jeff called me from Europe, where he played last season and said if we were given an opportunity to go live in Australia for 6 months would you come with me? I immediately said yes, absolutely. Knowing that I could arrange my work back in Canada to suit this new adventure in our lives, was one experience neither one of us wanted to pass up”.
Kim Couper clearly isn’t your average WAG and it is evident by the knowledge she possesses about ice skating, power skating and ice hockey in general. She has become an important part of David Ferrari’s North Stars Academy, coaching players of all levels and abilities, “I am fortunate enough that I own my own Hockey Training Company, Athletic Edge Training Co. which I have had for over 9 years back home in Canada, so it allows me flexibility in what Jeff and I do and where. I came from the figure skating world, where I skated competitively from the age of 7 for 14 years. When I turned 11 I started volunteering as a skating coach and by the time I was 16 I did schooling to complete my level 2 theory & became a certified professional figure skating coach, as well as a certified power skating instructor, of which there aren’t many”.
The importance of what they do off the ice is not lost on Couper, “Being an import player as Jeff is in Australia creates an opportunity to leave a legacy, to pass on skills and a chance to hopefully one day see some of the eager young faces we coached, playing in North America”.
During Jeff’s off season he is also kept busy giving back to the community as a skills instructor teaching, he has been coaching skills for 13 years for companies under Athletic Edge and it obvious to anyone who has attended their sessions, that the couple make a pretty great team.
Within a week of arriving in Newcastle, Garry Dore had Kim and Jeff all set up to run a skating camp at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium with the North Stars Academy, a local hockey development company, out of Newcastle by David Ferrari which coincidently had it’s origins in Canada. The couple had also been approached by the Norwest Emporers Ice Hockey Club in Sydney to teach multiple sessions weekly down there, showing the knowledge base possessed by Kim and Jeff was in demand.
To many of our Canadian friends, the images of Australia conjure up things like beaches and BBQ’s but hockey isn’t always one that comes to mind. “It definitely is a different world of hockey here, but in the end it’s about giving all the athletes, regardless of ability, the opportunity to full fill their dreams of playing Hockey, whatever that maybe. We feel so fortunate to be able to travel the world and teach internationally in places like Canada, Europe, & now Australia, to all ages and abilities, to see what hockey means to each new athlete. It’s amazing to see how much heart they have and that is another reason why I love my “work” so much.
Couper adds, “The appreciation on their faces, both young and old while not only here but across the world, has been the best reward and the best feeling any coach could ever experience. We have enjoyed working with lots of Australia’s raw talent and like home, all the athletes seem very hungry to learn”.
Kim and Jeff always talked about places they’d like to visit together, as they really enjoy travelling, especially together during the Canadian off season. “Jeff had met many Aussies in Chile, while living there for 4 years during his teenage years and that started to trigger his interest in coming “down-under”. He also had a few mates who had come over to play here in AIHL and highly recommended it as a must do. For us the idea of being able to have the opportunity to explore something new to both of us and spend more time together was a huge factor as well. Getting away from home and our families and living amongst our new Newcastle Family, has been a blast”.
The time in Australia isn’t just about hockey and nor should it be. Even as we head into our mild Australian winter, Kim and Jeff have had the opportunity to take in some of the beauty the region of the Hunter possesses. “We have had the opportunity to do some amazing things so far from sand dunning and feeding camels, kangaroos and koalas the whole works, to taking surfing lessons with Learn to Surf Newcastle and house boating. We’ve been a part of many a family birthday and milestone too, none of which we will ever forget! We have some other great trips & adventures planned as well, as we don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity”.
An important message that one takes from talking to Kim and Jeff is not only their passion for the sport but the ideas that dreams can take you anywhere in the hockey world and the effort you put in can bring rewards. “This amazing journey and life experience would never have been possible had the two of us not gone after our dreams and pushed ourselves. Sure, there are bumps along the way, but those bumps only motivated us both to push through. We are forever grateful to be surrounded by so many supportive people in our lives, from all over the world”.
Early mentors are important to everyone and can make a big impact in the pursuit of dreams. Jeff recalls one comment that comes to mind for Kim almost 10 years ago now. A obviously very wise person said, ”Kim you have something different, something special in your coaching. Since then she never looked back, and things have only got better and bigger for her!
Kim adds, “I always knew one day I would own my own business but until 2012 I never knew it would be internationally exposed. We thank all the amazing people in our lives, especially our families. They not only put us in our first pair skates but have given us all the skills to be successful and who taught us that anything is possible. And to our biggest fans – each other. We cannot begin to name all the amazing people that have contributed to this journey for us, but please know we are forever grateful that you have come into our lives, from the bottom of our hearts we thank you & you will never be forgotten!”
The Ice Hockey season in Australia comes and goes and so does the batch of players that make the journey here to play. The Australian Ice Hockey League has now become a total experience which both Kim and Jeff prove that out get out of it what you put into it.
Couper, lamenting on the journey so far, “It’s hard to believe we have been here almost 3 months, and even harder to believe that in another 3 we will be saying bye to all the amazing families & friends we have grown so close with. From the first day we arrived here in Australia everyone has welcomed us into their families & homes with open arms”.
Where will your dreams take you?
Photo:: Debra Jean Photography
Athletic Edge Training Co. is running on-going sessions in conjunction with the North Stars Academy (N.S.A) twice a week, offering a Junior Development on Sundays & an 18+ Adult Power skating session on Monday’s at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium.