Pioneers call it quits
Though they’ve been a familiar sight at the Park City Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday nights the past few winters, the Park City Pioneers hockey team has shut down and won’t be playing any games during the 2015-16 season.
After founder/general manager/former player David Imonti decided to leave the team to focus on his growing hockey agency, 37 Hockey, he said the search for a replacement yielded no results.
"No one else is willing to take it over," he said. "I tried for months and no one was interested. There was a bit of a vetting process through the [Black Diamond Hockey] League, too — they didn’t want just anyone to take it over."
Despite the lack of interest, Imonti said he thought there’d eventually be a new leader and the hockey games would continue.
"I thought for sure someone would try to take it over," he said. "We were close a couple times, but when people realized the cost and the work, they pulled out. It’s not just showing up and playing."
Adding to the Pioneers’ problems was increasingly sparse ice time at the popular Ice Arena.
"There isn’t a ton of available time in Park City for practice," he said. "Getting in extra games was hard, too, because of their booking."
Finally, Imonti added, the core group of players who started the Pioneers several years ago has begun to age out of competitive hockey. To field a full roster, Imonti used his hockey clout to recruit an increasing number of players from around the country to come to Park City.
"With [the core] guys leaving, to stay fresh, we would have had to recruit," he said. "But the talent group below the [older] age group is weak or just not there. [Recruiting new players] wasn’t actually hard for me at all — that’s where my professional background comes into play. They didn’t have the local attachment, but they were excellent supplemental players."
Still, he added, the constantly shuffling roster made it difficult for the Pioneers to keep pace with high-chemistry squads like the Jackson Hole Moose.
"There are teams that have been playing the same lines, in some cases like Jackson, for 10 years or so," he said. "It just comes down to getting guys who can commit to a full season and that’s a challenge."
Imonti said he’s hopeful that someone will eventually pick up the reins and restart the Pioneers program.
"It was a fun run," he said. "You never know, maybe it will come back someday."
He added that some of his best memories of the past few years have come on the ice with his Pioneer teammates.
"The time we spent with the guys over the course of the six years made for some great memories," he said. "My favorite was probably winning the Mountain West Hockey League championship [in 2013]. That was one of my favorite memories of the last decade, in general. I’ll never forget some of those nights out there. It’s good to know we could share that with everyone [in the Park City community]."
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