Pioneers accept invitation to join league |

Pioneers accept invitation to join league

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

It’s been a long and somewhat rocky journey for the small-town semi-pro hockey team, but after winning a state championship, leaving its home turf but returning in time to win a second straight state title, the Park City Pioneers have made perhaps one of their biggest moves to date.

The Pioneers have accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West Hockey League, a senior elite league with teams in California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Washington.

And the league can still grow larger, according to Pioneer captain and team executive David Imonti.

"That’s the idea," he said. "The people in charge definitely are marketing it hard for some attention, at least in the region, if not nationally. The way they’re setting it up, it will make it pretty easy for other teams to join in."

Currently included in the Mountain West Hockey League are teams from Las Vegas, Nev.; Sun Valley, Idaho; Boise, Idaho; Kennewick, Wash.; Aspen, Colo.; and Ventura, Calif.; as well as Park City and Salt Lake City. Imonti said one of the Pioneers’ rival teams from the last few seasons, the Jackson Hole Moose, is on the fence about joining, but that decision could be made in the coming weeks.

Imonti said the team’s 2012-13 schedule will once again feature 20 games with 10 at home at the Park City Ice Arena and 10 trips to various arenas around the west.

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The Pioneers have competed against the likes of Salt Lake, Aspen and Sun Valley in recent years, but forming new rivalries excites Imonti, who said a trip to sunny Southern California during the winter will be a welcome challenge.

"I think it would be a good stepping stone to bring legitimacy and everything to a little different level in Park City," he said. "The spotlight is kind of back on us. It’s important to have people to look forward to this, especially since we have a real legit chance to win."

He said he expects Park City and Sun Valley to be the favorites when the season starts in November, and the team from Ventura to be a dark horse in the league.

The league’s playoff format will feature the top four teams at the end of the season and will have cash prizes for the first- and second-place teams.

"It’ll get the guys a little more excited to get more consistency in terms of wanting to play and show up all the time," Imonti said. "I think it will be a little more professional, too. We’ll have legit league rules. Bottom-line, it will probably be a little tougher."

Imonti expects the Pioneers’ schedule to be released in August or September.

"It will be a pretty good thing for hockey in the state," he said. "We’re going to take everything to another level."