Nipissing Lakers Nordic Head Coach and Northern Ontario Division Coaching Coordinator Toivo Koivukoski has been named the 2016 recipient of the Al Brennan Memorial Trophy for Coach of the Year.
Koivukoski is an eight-year veteran as head coach of the Lakers Nordic Team, whose athletes have risen to provincial and national prominence. He has also had recent international experience as assistant coach for Team Canada at the World University Games in 2013.
Already voted coach of the year in 2014 and 2015 by the entire OUAA Nordic coaching roster, Koivukoski continues to dedicate every spare moment to developing athletes, brushing and grooming trails, and planning local races. His efforts have extended well beyond the Lakers varsity nordic program. Koivukoski was instrumental in creating the Northern Ontario Division Lakers Nordic Team, which made its debut last winter (2015-16). Recognized by the Division Board of Directors, the team is made up of elite junior racers drawn from North Bay, Temiscaming, Timmins, and Sault Ste. Marie with a goal toward developing young athletes as they train alongside the varsity student-athletes.
"Our aim is to assist volunteer clubs in the Division with coaching expertise and mentorship, waxing knowledge, and day-to-day competitive training environments so that our juniors can test themselves against the best kids in their categories and senior varsity student-athletes,” said Koivukoski.
Koivukoski’s efforts were recognized this past year as he was named Head Coach for Team Canada for the 2017 FISU Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The FISU World Universiade, in existence since 1960 (cross country skiing has been a compulsory discipline since the inaugural edition of the games in Chamonix, France), is a biennial multi-sport games for full time student-athletes, with over 50 countries taking part in the Winter Games. The FISU Games are endorsed and supported domestically by participating country’s sports governing bodies, in Canada, Cross Country Canada and Cross Country Ontario. This major milestone has definitely been a highlight for Koivukoski.
“Being able to support our country’s best varsity athletes in international competition was a proud step in my coaching career, and it deepened my love of the sport of cross country skiing,” said Koivukoski.
Two of the Lakers athletes, Shelby Dickey and Jordan Cascagnette, were also named to that team. This is the second time that Nipissing Nordic has qualified student-athletes to represent Canada at the FISU Games, demonstrating that Nipissing University is the place to ski and study in Canada.
Under Koivukoski’s leadership, the trail network at Nipissing University has been widened, cleared, and expanded, and is continually groomed in preparation for a wide variety of all season uses. Members of the public are invited to use the trail system for recreational activities including skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-biking (wide tire cycling) in the winter, and hiking, disc golf, and mountain biking in the spring, summer and fall months.
“I hope the trail system will encourage more people to enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle,” he said.
Future plans for the trail network include upgrades to international standards so that provincial championship events can be held at Nipissing University.
“The trails will have a number of short loops that will enable spectators to line the course and view racers multiple times," notes Koivukoski.
Toivo Koivukoski hails from Sioux Lookout, having grown up on cross country skis, and he competed for both Lakehead and Carleton Universities during his post-secondary years.
He is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science, Philosophy and Economics Department at Nipissing University.
Koivukoski will receive his award at the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner on May 6th at the Best Western (Lakeshore). Tickets are available from any Executive Committee member, by calling Chair Bill Jacko at 705-476-1429, or emailing Karen Cobb at cobbjk@onlink.