When one door closes, another one opens
David Imonti figured out early in life – at the tee ball level, in fact – that he was no good at baseball.
That sort of thing happens when your teammate is a young Cole Hamels.
All Hamels has done since playing tee ball with Imonti in San Diego is win a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies, earning World Series and National League Championship Series MVP awards in the process, and making it to three MLB All-Star teams.
But Imonti had a Plan B. He started playing hockey, roller hockey at first and then moving to the ice later.
That move shaped the rest of his life.
"I wasn’t good at anything else," he said. "(Hamels) was good. I wasn’t."
Hockey turned out to be a good choice for Imonti. When it was time to choose a college, he had several Division III schools from the East Coast interested in him.
But Weber State was also interested, and Imonti felt that was a better option for him.
"It came down to paying a couple grand a year to go to Weber or 30 grand to go to a school back east," he said. "It just wasn’t worth it financially for the level of hockey I’d be playing."
Plus, he added, playing for Weber was not a bad option.
"Weber was a good team at the time," he said. "They were one of the best teams in the country at the level they played."
Weber State was where Imonti met Aaron Dufford, the man with whom he’d eventually start the Park City Pioneers hockey team in 2009.
Also during college, Imonti started his own sports agency, representing a few area hockey players.
"I needed a thesis project and I always knew it was what I wanted to do," he said. "So I taught myself how to do it."
But Imonti hadn’t finished chasing his hockey dreams just yet.
He shipped off to France after college, selling his agency to supplement his income while playing nearly a full season professionally in Paris before having to once again change plans.
"My grandpa got cancer toward the end of the year," he said. "So I came back to the U.S. and finished the season."
After playing with the Mon Valley Thunder (near Pittsburgh) for a few games, he more international doors opened for him.
"I had signed to play in Melbourne (Australia) for the summer and Germany in the fall," he said.
"I had a house in Ogden, and I came back to shut everything off and clean everything out," he said.
But once again fate intervened. That’s when he started dating Brooke, who he had known since college but had never dated.
"It just kind of worked out that we started hanging out and I realized she’s a little out of my league and if I left, I’d definitely lose her," he said. "So I had to pick what was more important – getting punched in the face every night for a little bit of money, or her. She won."
He retired from hockey and started another sports agency, 37 Hockey, LLC.
But when he returned to being a hockey agent, many of his old clients came back to him, giving him a great starting point for his agency. He now represents about 100 hockey players, many of whom play in Europe.
"That’s kind of my niche," he said. "I specialize in movement from North America to Europe."
But he still had the itch to get back on the ice and play. So he got back in touch with Dufford, and together they started the Park City Pioneers.
"I knew he was familiar with the market up here," Imonti said. "I thought there was a place (in Park City) where we could put a team and attract a fan base. It was far enough from Salt Lake that it wasn’t going to compete with the professional team down there."
Now in their fourth season, the Pioneers have been a successful organization from the start.
"Every year we’ve managed to put together a competitive roster," said Imonti, who also acts as the team’s general manager and runs most of the day-to-day operations. "We’ve managed to compete with the Jackson Holes and the Sun Valleys."
Ultimately, Imonti would like to see the Pioneers become a staple of the Park City community, helping promote youth hockey and giving back. He and teammate Matt Long are working towards making the team a nonprofit organization before next year.
"It’s something I do because I like to do it and I see a long-term future in it for the community," he said. "It’s a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile to me."
He also envisions the team being a big draw during weekend homestands.
"We have the potential to be a big show in town," he said. "We want to be the source of entertainment from 7 p.m. until the bars really get going around 10."
But for now, the Pioneers have their sights set on another title this year, something Imonti said he’s confident they can win.
"If we didn’t feel like we had a chance to win it, then we wouldn’t be playing in it," he said. "We’ve never lost a championship in the history of this team and I have no intention of doing that now."
The Pioneers take on the Rebels of Salt Lake on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. Should they win that game, they’ll play Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Mountain West Hockey League championship at the Park City Ice Arena.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
“We can’t keep kicking this thing down the road. The longer we do, the longer it’s going to take to come out the other side.”