A chance encounter five years ago in Detroit with Juneau-Douglas assistant hockey coach Tom Rutecki and Kim Muir led to the Detroit Red Wings skate instructor's yearly trips to Juneau to work with the Crimson Bears hockey team.
In addition to teaching pro hockey players how to skate, Muir, a former U.S. Figure Skating Association competitor, owns her own business, Can't Skate, Can't Play.
"Tom Rutecki has family back where I'm from in the Detroit suburbs, and one summer about five years ago he was in town and saw my clinic," she said. "He asked if his son Nick could skate in it while they were in town, and he did. He suggested that I come up here. The next year, I hemmed and hawed about it, but the following year he really pressed the issue. He said, 'Look, we don't have anything like this, and I think it would be great for you to come here.'"
Muir returned last week for her third summer session in Juneau. She's nearing the third trimester of her second pregnancy, but even that can't slow her down.
"I'm almost 5-months pregnant right now...," she said. "I'm still trying to feel like I'm not pregnant at all, I don't want to feel like I'm a hazard out there on the ice, nor do I want the sympathy, 'Oh, she's pregnant. She can't do stuff.'"
Muir came alone her first year, but has since brought NHL-hopeful hockey players along with her to help instruct the JDHS hockey team. Crimson Bears goalie Matt Noreen said the instructors and Muir have been a huge benefit.
"It's been really great. They all have really good backgrounds and they're really experienced," he said. "Kim, she's intimidating with how good of a skater she is. She's explosive with her skating. It's completely amazing. Playing against those skilled instructors really helped. They've all been working with Kim for a long time, and they've all played semi-pro and college hockey, so that's a pretty prestigious resume."
Jordan Black, a forward for the Port Huron Icehawks, said working with Muir has made him infinitely better on the ice.
"The big thing is the power skating," he said. "That's what (Kim's) forte is. Most of us have been skating with her since we were 7, 8 years old, and it's done wonders for us. Just the one year, coming here last year, we could see a big improvement with the high school kids. You can tell it's working. Their acceleration, crossovers and edge work is phenomenally better."
JDHS coach Dave McKenna said Muir's camps have had an immediate effect on the Bears' quality of play.
"And we are incredibly fortunate to have world-class instruction come right here to Juneau," he said. "In the hockey world, we live in somewhat of a void without exposure to a lot of competition. By bringing her personal experience and top-notch staff here, we make big strides in catching up to the rest of the state."
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