New Skatin’ Utes hit the ice for first time

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

For the first time in more than three years, the U will put a hockey team on the ice tonight. After months of preparation, the Skatin’ Utes will take on Utah State at Eccles Ice Rink in Logan. The puck will drop at 7 p.m.

The quest to reinstate the U hockey team began back in August 2005. The two-year suspension was over, but that didn’t necessarily mean that the team would magically reappear.

It would take a lot of creative planning and a lot of convincing the right people that, if given their team back, the hockey players would be on their best behavior.

Enter: Jason Petho, a goaltender, and J.M. LeCointre, an injured forward. Because of a shoulder injury, LeCointre knew he wouldn’t be able to lace up his skates and play for the team. Nevertheless, he believed that the U should have a hockey program in which talented hockey players who didn’t want to go to Weber State or Utah State could play.

After three or four meetings with the powers-that-be at Campus Recreation, LeCointre and Petho slowly began to earn the trust of school officials.

“In the beginning, it was pretty shaky, pretty iffy,” LeCointre said.

But by January 2006, things were proceeding at a healthy pace. The Hockey Club even had a written constitution, but wasn’t home-free quite yet.

“It was still kind of up in the air after we got the constitution,” LeCointre said. “It was a suspenseful and fragile situation.”

Eventually, U officials gave LeCointre and Petho the thumbs up, welcoming back the Skatin’ Utes. Today all of LeCointre and Petho’s hard work will finally pay off. The Skatin’ Utes will take part in their first game in more than three years when they travel to Logan to take on Utah State.

Head coach Bob Wilkinson has been working with the team for four weeks. His game plan can be summed up as “pass, then skate.” He hopes to mirror the European game, and frowns upon the violent style of play popular in the NHL.

“If they want to fight, they can play for another team,” Wilkinson said.

Fifteen players will suit up for the Utes. It would have been more, Wilkinson said, but about six players who made the team were either unable to come up with the required $800 fee or were not accepted to the U.

Aware of past discipline issues, Wilkinson has created a program that demands dedication to a straight-laced lifestyle, as the team is encouraged to stay away from alcohol.

And perhaps even more difficult for a college student, the team practices at 6 a.m. and is urged to begin exercising off the ice even earlier.

“I’m very impressed with the character quality. They’re a committed bunch,” Wilkinson said of the team. “They’re coachable and eager to learn; they’ve soaked up the system willingly.”

While LeCointre won’t be suiting up for the team he helped bring into existence, he is an important part of the team off the ice; the Brighton graduate runs the team. He refers to his duties as an “immense laundry list,” which includes raising money from sponsors, advertising and merchandising. Understandably, he is excited and a little nervous for his teammates to finally step out onto the ice and show what they’re made of.