Pioneers join ski-town conference |

Pioneers join ski-town conference

Park City goalie Kyle Gover stares down a shot during a game earlier this year. Park Record file photo

After finishing last season with a disappointing record and failing to win a league championship for the first time in their history, the Park City Pioneers have decided to join a new hockey league.

By teaming up with squads from other ski resort towns, the Pioneers hope the Black Diamond Hockey League will ignite some strong regional rivals.

Pioneers founder and captain David Imonti said he felt becoming part of the new league with the Jackson Hole Moose, Sun Valley Suns and Bozeman Stingers was the right move.

"I think it’ll be good for us," he said. "These are the regional rivals that we all get up to play against all the time."

After the lackluster 2013-14 effort, Imonti said he thinks the new league and new rivals will force the Pioneers to get back to playing the kind of hockey they’re capable of.

The lack of quality competition at times led to Park City losing games it should have won last season, he said.

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"When we would play a good team, we’d get killed because we were used to playing the bad teams," he said. "These guys (the Moose, Suns and Stingers) are used to doing it the same way for a long time. We’re going to be able to grow with them.

"They’ve been around for 30 years. We want to be in the same category in a few years."

Imonti traced the Pioneers’ move to a weekend series with Sun Valley last season, which came at a time when he and other team leaders were discussing folding the entire organization.

"We were kicking around the idea of just shutting it down," he said. "It seemed like maybe some of the fire had just burned out," he said.

"When Sun Valley was in town, they were talking about it (the new league). We had always wanted to be in a league with Sun Valley and Jackson in the past. They were all on board with it if we could get in on a limited scale, so we just sort of started brainstorming and finding a way to make it work."

Though the Pioneers won’t play nearly as many games in 2014-15 as they did this year, Imonti said that could end up being a good thing.

"We got a little carried away with the games we scheduled last year," he said. "There’s too much going on [in Park City] for us to have that big of a schedule. Next year, every game we play will be quality."

Because of the pared-down schedule, Imonti hopes to eventually attract as many fans to games as Jackson Hole and Sun Valley do on a regular basis.

"It’s one of those things where we didn’t want to oversaturate the schedule," he said. "We’re trying to keep our [travel] costs down so we can lower ticket prices as well. We’re trying to get as many butts in the seats as possible."

Based on what he’s heard so far, Imonti thinks the move is already paying off.

"I think it’s kind of reinvigorated interest, to be honest," he said. "I think it was the right move. Every game we play will be quality — it’ll be back-and-forth action and a skilled hockey game."