Back on thick ice

By and

The Skatin’ Utes are back.

The three-year hiatus for the U hockey team will end this fall, as a pair of students has spearheaded an effort to return the club team to campus after its unceremonious departure in February 2003.

The former team, which at the time was on the verge of achieving Division-I club status, was given a two-year suspension for a litany of rules violations. The suspension ended last year, and J.M. Le Cointre and Jason Peth have brought it back to the U. The two, along with several others who have already expressed interest in joining the team in any capacity, will hold a recruitment meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Union Theatre.

“We just want to let people know (about the team), get us all together, get people on the e-mail list?(we’re) getting the basic club organization together,” Peth said.

“We’re looking to see who’s interested in playing, but above that, we’re looking to see who’s interested in helping out,” Le Cointre said.

In the fall, Le Cointre and Peth got the ball rolling by talking to school administrators about what it would take to bring the team back. The initial response, Le Cointre said, wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic one.

“I’m pretty sure the first time we called asking about the hockey team, the basic answer was no,” Le Cointre said.

That was near the beginning of Fall Semester, but from then on Le Cointre and Peth continued to put time and effort into getting hockey back on the U campus-and their efforts have paid off.

But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.

“We had to jump through rings of fire, pretty much,” Peth said. “But (administrators) have been really helpful.”

When they initially got things started last semester, they held a meeting in the Art Building with not only Susan Miller-the head of campus recreation services-but several lawyers and representatives from risk management.

“There was a whole room full of them, and they basically (said), ‘Tell us why you want to do this,'” Le Cointre said.

Administrators stipulated that the two write a constitution and bylaws, get the club’s paperwork in order and find a faculty adviser-which they found in U assistant professor Steve Kern.

Then, administrators sent them a memo outlining “eight or nine requirements that we had to do. None of them were really unreasonable,” Le Cointre said.

Among them was a rule requiring that any member of the 2002-03 Ute hockey team must repay his share of the team’s outstanding debt before re-joining Utah hockey.

“(Administrators) would like to model our program after the rugby and lacrosse programs,” Le Cointre said.

Also, for their first year back at the U, the Skatin’ Utes will play a shortened 30-game schedule instead of the typical 40-game slate and will remain in the state of Utah, as per the administration’s request. Many of the previous club’s infractions occurred during road trips, as the team committed several travel violations.

Naturally, financing is needed not only to officially get the ball rolling, but also to keep the club going on a day-to-day basis. This includes paying for ice time, referees, scorekeepers and even uniforms. For that, Le Cointre and Peth recently went to ASUU, from which they were given $1,390 in start-up money.

“Most of the money will basically just be for recruiting, getting the word out for next year,” Peth said. “(ASUU) was really helpful; they were really supportive of getting our hockey team back.”

Le Cointre and Peth say they still have a lot of work to do before the season starts next September-including finding a head coach and securing ice time at a local hockey rink.

One thing that is mostly out of the way is the scheduling. The 2006-2007 schedule is already set, as the Utes are slated to begin their comeback season Sept. 22 against UVSC in Provo. The team’s home opener will follow a week later, once again against the Wolverines.

As for now, however, the focus is on finding enough players to fill a roster, as well as anyone else willing to help out in any form, from coaching to sponsorships. Le Cointre said that about 15 people have already contacted him and expressed interest in playing for the team. He said he hopes Monday’s meeting is another step toward re-building a once-nationally recognized program.

“Every week, I’m getting another couple e-mails or I run into somebody who’s interested,” Le Cointre said. “We just want to get this program back off the ground.”