Local hockey scene boosted by new franchise
The Moose are on the loose.
That was the message Friday morning at a press conference at the Park City Ice Arena; the town now has another hockey team, the Park City Junior Moose. The Moose will play in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), a 15-team, three-division Junior A league (ages 16 to 20) based on the West Coast.
"It’s an opportunity to keep promoting youth hockey," said Jason Glidden, business development manager for the Park City Ice Arena. "Before, if a local kid had the talent to play Junior A hockey, he’d have to go out of state. Now, we have the chance to allow them to stay local."
Glidden said the arena began working with the WSHL last fall to bring a team to Park City and nearly a year later, after wading through the paperwork, USA Hockey approved the squad a couple weeks ago.
"The importance of the Junior A program is to establish local talented players and to move up and look at junior hockey as a stepping stone to get to collegiate hockey," said Aaron Kinslow, general manager of the Moose. "That’s the big focus here. We think it’s a necessity to keep our players to stay in state."
Kinslow said the Moose will host 21 home games when the league kicks off in September. Tryouts for the team begin in early August.
He also said he has already been able to locate 10 Utah-based players who will don the forest green and white in the fall and winter.
The Moose will no doubt develop rivalries with the Ogden Mustangs and the to-be-named Wyoming franchise.
The Moose are a sanctioned amateur program, meaning players won’t lose collegiate eligibility if they choose to play college hockey later.
Kinslow said the front office is eager to recruit any players.
"We’re able to go coast-to-coast," he said. "But we are also looking mostly in state. We want to find the best Utah players to play for our program. There are a lot of good hockey players here."
Head coach Zach Desjardins, who coached the San Antonio Diablos of the WSHL last season in San Antonio, Texas, is eager to see what type of hockey is bred in the state.
A former junior hockey league and collegiate player himself, Desjardins has been coaching for the last 10 years in leagues from Alaska and Canada to Texas.
And what type of style will the Moose bring to the ice?
"When I played, I was a little bit more physical," he said. "Out here (Park City Ice Arena), we have a little bigger rink, so I think we’re going to have to go with a little faster, speedier team."
Desjardins, who said his main goal is to move young adults onto collegiate programs, said he has numerous contacts with Division-1 and Division-3 college coaches across the country. He said the most important thing as a coach is to be a straight shooter with his players.
"We also want to be realistic with them," Desjardins said of players’ futures after the Moose.
While the Moose will most likely have a Utah-based roster, Kinslow and Desjardins said the WSHL has been instrumental in helping players lace up their skates wherever they’re needed.
The league has arranged host families for players who play out of state and, while Kinslow said there will be "a handful at most" of high school students staying with host families, the league’s capability to accommodate to student-athletes is special.
"It’s one of the best things that’s helped junior hockey," he said.
The Moose will be helped by Park City Pioneers players Mike and Mark Adamek, who will help coach and also lend Kinslow a hand in the front office.
"We’re just here to help everyone get accommodated to Park City," Mike Adamek said. "That’s our job."
So why call them the Moose?
"Just kind of fit the area," Kinslow said.
And why Park City, and not Salt Lake City or Provo?
"We felt that, in this market, right now, it’s one of the fastest-growing youth hockey communities in Utah as a whole," Kinslow said. "We felt there’s going to be a very strong hockey following here."
Park City Mayor Dana Williams, who was on hand for the press conference and was awarded an honorary Moose jersey, said he’s excited.
"From what I understand of this league, 16-to-20-year-olds are about as rabid of hockey players you can see," he said.
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