Led by two Parkites, the Park City Pioneers hockey team returns after three-year hiatus
Come November, a slice of the past returns when the Park City Pioneers hockey program resumes its status as a member of the Mountain West Hockey League.
Behind the support of General Manager/Owner Robert Ward and Team Manager Weston Nash, the Pioneers will make their return to Park City after a three-year hiatus. Nash was instrumental in bringing the Pioneers back to Utah, wanting a team to play for upon his return to the state after taking a job in California a few years ago.
“When I moved to the Bay Area, I helped start the NorCal Ice Raiders team for the league,” Nash said. “But since I’m moving back to Utah, I really wanted a team to play for and I remember how great the fans were in Park City, so that’s how it got started.”
Ward was in a similar boat as Nash. He, too, wanted to continue playing hockey in a competitive atmosphere, so bringing back the Pioneers was an easy decision after he returned to the area.
“I’ve played hockey for most of my life. … I moved away and when I came back, I heard the Pioneers were done,” Ward said. “I knew I wanted to keep playing competitively, so after throwing the idea around and seeing how much community support there was, I went all in.”
David Imonti founded the Pioneers in 2009, leading the team to the inaugural MWHL championship in 2013. The squad disbanded when he left the program to focus on his hockey agency.
Under the new direction of Ward and Nash, continuity within the program is a must for success, something they said they’re preaching during the tryout process. But achieving that also takes the backing of the fan base.
“Part of getting players to stay here and play is getting the community to show them support and let the players know they’re wanted,” Ward said. “Having that will only give us better continuity throughout the team and on the ice.”
The Pioneers will be made up of local adult hockey players — all of whom will have prior experience at the professional, college or junior hockey levels. They’ll play their home games at the Park City Ice Arena during the regular season, which runs from November through March.
Interest in the team has been high, according to Nash, who estimated 45 to 50 players will attend tryouts at the end of September. The team will consist of a 25- to 30-man roster, with sub-level players used for practicing.
“From what I know, the Pioneers are the talk of the town in the hockey community,” Nash said. “They had a great reputation back in the day and we are wanting to build off that with hopefully 1,000-plus fans attending each game.”
Despite the excitement surrounding the program, Ward and Nash both said they’re still looking for sponsors for the team.
The MWHL is a Senior A league founded in 2012. The league now includes 12 clubs from across the West. It’s broken down into two divisions, Sierra and Rocky, with the top teams advancing to the playoffs in April and the championship being held in Las Vegas at the end of the month.
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