If you’ve ever been to the Ice Pond, you’ve probably seen Kevin Stormer.
Having grown up on ice, it only makes sense that Stormer now works for the arena that serves as home for both the Waunakee boys’ hockey team and the Cap City Cougars girls’ co-op. It was at an early age that Stormer got his start skating.
“I started skating when I was 3. My parents just threw the gear on and dragged me out to Madison Ice Arena…” said Stormer. “It was pulling teeth getting me on the ice, and then it was pulling teeth getting me off the ice.”
After getting a taste of life on the ice, Stormer was hooked. He started playing hockey a year later at the age of 4, with big goals for his future.
“I grew up going to Badger hockey games; those were a blast,” Stormer said. “That’s probably what was really alluring to me was, ‘Man, I want to play for the Badgers one day. Play in – at the time – the Coliseum.’ That was probably the biggest allure: the dream to play for the Badgers and play in the NHL one day.”
As an active kid, Stormer did try other sports. He gave basketball and football a shot, but nothing else seemed to match the appeal for Stormer of throwing on the skates and hitting the rink to play hockey
Growing up in Waunakee, Stormer played youth hockey for Waunakee all the way up through Peewee. His most memorable moment, he says, playing in youth hockey came while playing sick in the state tournament at the youth level.
“I missed the first game because I was just deathly ill; I had the plague or something. We won the first game, so I really wanted to play in the second game…” Stormer said. “I was still barely able to function, let alone play a hockey game at the state tournament. We played against Eagle River, and I scored the first goal of the game. It happened to be the only goal of the game we scored; we got beat 10-1 and they ended up winning the state tournament. Just the fact that I was sicker than a dog and scored the only goal against the best team in the state was pretty cool.”
Once he got to the Bantam level (ages 13-14), the team’s numbers weren’t high enough to field a full team, and the players all went off in separate directions.
“We all scattered. A few of us went to the east-side Madison team, a couple of us went to the two west-side schools and a couple went to Sun Prairie,” said Stormer. “After Bantams … I had the opportunity to play for the Caps, the Wisconsin AAA which is now the Junior Admirals. Then, I actually moved away up to Houghton, MI to play travel AAA up there.”
Moving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at 17 was a big change for Stormer, and it forced him to mature quickly. After graduation from Houghton High School, Stormer moved on to playing junior hockey on the east coast and eventually wound up playing on the club team at UW Superior. It was there where is coaching career got its start. After a few years at Superior, with his college eligibility exhausted but a handful credits away from graduating, Stormer still wanted to stay involved with the hockey team.
“I didn’t want to just kick hockey to the curb,” said Stormer. “I knew coaching after was something I maybe wanted to pursue. With two years left, I’ll be the president and the coach. Set the schedules, do the grunt work.”
The experience as a coach transitioned well when Stormer landed his current role of Program Manager at the Ice Pond in August of 2015. In addition to organizing a myriad of camps and clinics for youth hockey players from around the area, Stormer is also an assistant coach for the Waunakee boys’ hockey team. Over the past four seasons, Stormer sees his ability to relate to the players he coaches as his biggest strength so far.
“I’m the younger guy on the staff, so I’m not that far removed – well, maybe I am – from being where they are right now.” said Stormer.
In his tenure since 2015, the Warriors have made some playoff runs, won a couple of Badger North titles and had some big moments, but two in particular stand out most in Stormer’s memory.
“One was up at Onalaska; we were down 4-0 at the end of the first period, and we came back to win the game 8-6 or 9-7, something ridiculous like that,” said Stormer. “The other game was against Madison West. We tied the game with a legitimate buzzer-beater in the third period and then won the game in overtime. You never see buzzer-beaters in hockey, so to have one go your way was pretty cool.”
Stormer’s efforts on Waunakee’s staff were recognized this past winter when he was named Assistant Coach of the Year in Section 6 by the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association.
“It’s cool to be recognized for something like that, but at the same time, it’s not necessarily about me,” Stormer added. “It’s trying to either move kids onto the next level or prepare them for what life holds for them when they’re out of high school.”
Where his jobs as Program Manager and coach for Waunakee High School intertwine, Stormer is able to take the most pride in his work. Many of the young athletes Stormer had the chance to coach through off-season camps at the Ice Pond have now made their way onto the Waunakee boys’ hockey team, where their progress can be seen by their coach up close.
“It’s cool to see that progression. I think that’s one of the coolest things about hockey: you can really see the development of the kid more so than any other major sport…” Stormer said. “It’s really cool to watch a kid go from barely able to stand on the ice to playing third, second, first line on the high school team.”
Many of those players now make up a Waunakee team with high expectations this season. With a talented young group returning a handful of all-conference performers, combined with the WIAA’s move to two divisions for boys’ hockey in the 2019-20 season, the Warriors could have a good chance to make an appearance at State come March.
“I think that expectation is there; I think it’s real…” said Stormer, “If our kids have the right attitude and we do the right things coaching-wise, I think we’ll have success.”
In the meantime, Stormer is focused on events at the Ice Pond. Coming up on Aug. 3 to 4, the Ice Pond will host a high school summer league tournament featuring Waunakee, DeForest and Sun Prairie, among other schools. Many of the athletes Stormer coached in camps as youth will be making their first appearance representing their high school, which can sometimes be a shock for a young freshman.
“It’s quite the change, just from the maturity standpoint…” said Stormer. “You see some of the young kids get a good wake-up call; they come back to the bench and all you can say is, ‘Welcome to high school.’”