Park City Pioneers host first home games in a week
It’s been three years since the Park City Pioneers last played at the Park City Ice Arena, but that hiatus is now coming to an end as the Pioneers make their return to the local hockey scene as a member of the Black Diamond Hockey League.
“It’s so exciting to get back on the ice here in Park City, especially after the long break,” said Bobby Ward, general manager of and player for the Pioneers. “Things have really come together with the new coaching staff and the new league. There’s fresh blood on the team so I’m really excited to see how it all turns out.”
Tryouts concluded at the end of September, the team has had a few practices under its belt in preparation for the upcoming season, which kicks off on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. The Pioneers will travel to face the Jackson Hole Moose for games on the 8th and 9th at the Snow King Sports & Events Center in Jackson, Wyoming.
“Right now we are trying to get to know each other and build chemistry amongst us players before the season starts,” said Weston Nash, team manager and player. “We want to build this team the right way, and that starts with the proper foundation of getting to know one another and being a part of the community. I think people are excited about us being back.”
After the early season road trip, Park City returns for its home opener with a doubleheader against the Utah County Blizzard on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
The Pioneers will play an 18-game regular season schedule, with doubleheaders being played on weekends, and ends in early March. The playoffs and finals will then be held in late March and early April.
As far as the hockey goes, Park City will be led on the ice by head coach Jordan Parise, a former signee with the New Jersey Devils who played for their affiliate, the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League, and assistant coach Mike Gauthier.
He also had stints in Austria, Norway, Germany and Italy before officially retiring on Sept. 17, 2013. After recently moving to Park City for a new job, Ward reached out to Parise, who eventually joined the staff.
“Someone told us he moved to town and somehow Bobby got his number, where he convinced him (Parise) to come to tryouts and see what we were all about,” Nash said. “He brings this level of intensity that we can all get behind, while also demanding a certain level of professionalism and respect. He’s really helped with the structure of the team and runs us like a pro team, which only benefits us in the long run.”
Ward and Nash decided to join the Black Diamond Hockey League and leave the Pioneers’ previous league, the Mountain West Hockey League, because they found it a much better fit.
“We think we can build something bigger and better being a part of the diamond league,” Nash said. “All of the teams have great destinations, being all ski towns where the communities really come out and support the hockey team. It’s nice because all the players travel and everyone hits the slopes during the down time, really making it a perfect fit for us.”
The BDHL consists of six teams from mountainous communities: Park City Pioneers, Jackson Hole Moose, Utah County Blizzard, Sun Valley Suns, Bozeman Stingers and the Breckenridge Vipers.
“We want people to know that we got something really great in the works and if they come out and watch, we’ll put on a great show,” Nash said. “We want people to come check us out and get behind us to see what we have in store. We have a good team and now want to build a following in Park City.”
With the hockey part of the Pioneers taken care of, Ward and Nash, they’ve been busy trying to embrace the Park City community by going out and getting sponsors, to really help give the Pioneers the home-ice advantage.
The community support has been positive thus far, especially because Ward and Nash are doing things differently than the previous regime did. Engaging with the community is the primary difference this time around, so the two of them have been making sure the word is spread and attracting all types of sponsors.
“We’ve reached out marketing wise to a lot of different businesses and have now started to turn heads with our efforts.” Ward said. “People want to see the Pioneers done differently this time than it was in the past, and mainly just being more involved with the town.”
The Pioneers have partnered with Top Shelf Bar Services to bring a beer garden to the Ice Arena while teaming up with Old Town Cellars, who’ve agreed to supply the wine.
“Old Town Cellars has been huge for us, not just for the wine, but because its owner has really gotten behind us and wants to see us take off,” Ward said. “We have many sponsors now that we are working on trying to do some fun stuff for the fans. … Really engage them and want them coming out to watch and support us.”
Tickets will cost $5 and are free for kids under 12.
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The Miners are truly a brotherhood, relying on one another to help their teammates go farther. After a few players missed last year’s 4A state semifinal game, this year’s group made sure those guys got the chance to experience this year’s semifinals. When injuries last week had the chance to derail the season, unsung heroes stepped up for the win. Now No. 1 Park City faces No. 2 Sky View in the 4A state title game on Friday at Rice Eccles Stadium.