Since his boyhood days tearing up the ice with his two brothers in tiny Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, Sorensen has skated his way to success, thanks to hard work and the guidance of friends and mentors met along the way. Now, as executive director of the Los Angeles Junior Kings, a youth hockey league serving 300 players, he hopes to reciprocate.
Sorensen himself proposed the position to help the organization maximize its reach and raise funds to partially offset the costs borne by families for equipment, facilities and travel. Not that he needed a job. Sorensen is also vice president of First Financial Bancorp, a Los Angeles real estate finance company.
But he remembered the sacrifices his own single mother made to keep her three growing boys in skates and out of trouble. That investment paid off handsomely when Kelly and his brothers all received full university scholarships and shots at professional sports careers. To Sorensen’s delight, the best of L.A.’s Junior Kings receive college scholarships, too.
Sorensen’s full ride took him to Michigan’s Ferris State University, where advisers suggested he pursue a degree in golf management. Like many hockey players, Sorensen transitioned easily to golf during the off-season. And his on-ice play got him recruited as a junior in 1991 by pro hockey’s Detroit Red Wings. He played five seasons with farm teams in New York and Virginia.
An internship required to complete his degree paved Sorensen’s way to a full-time position with Santa Monica-based American Golf Corp. Less than three years after retiring from hockey, he was managing more than 20 Southern California golf courses. His supervisors at American Golf encouraged him to pursue an LMU executive M.B.A. at the company’s expense.
Then came 9/11 and a contraction in the golf industry. A hockey friend came to Sorensen’s aid, inviting him to join First Financial Bancorp. Now, his additional position as chief promoter and fundraiser for the Junior Kings brings him back to the ice where his journey began and where he coaches his 4-year-old son, Dane.
“All the doors opened to me in my life have come from the sport of hockey,” Sorensen says. “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to make it available to others.”