UTAH

Former BYU hockey coach excited for NHL in Utah, but longs for his old team

Jan 31, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: Feb 22, 2024, 12:18 pm

As state lawmakers and hockey fans alike throw their support behind bringing the National Hockey Le...

As state lawmakers and hockey fans alike throw their support behind bringing the National Hockey League to Utah, one former coach wishes his past team could be a part of the excitement.(Dave Pitcher)

(Dave Pitcher)

PROVO, Utah — As Utah lawmakers and hockey fans alike throw support behind bringing the National Hockey League to Utah, a former coach wishes his past team could be a part of the excitement.

It’s been two years since a team of students from Brigham Young University competed at Peaks Ice Arena. 

“It was a popular sport down there and I think that popularity is just going to grow,” said Dave Pitcher, the team’s head coach from 2018 to 2022.

BYU has never sponsored a hockey team. Their team began with a group of students in 1994 with the name the Provo Ice Cats. By 2007, the team had been able to secure a contract with BYU to play under their name and wear their logo.

“We had capacity crowds probably… three, four times a year,” Pitcher said. 

However, the BYU hockey team played its final season in 2021-2022, after Pitcher said the school decided not to renew the team’s contract.

KSL Newsradio has reached out to BYU but has not yet received a comment from the university.

After their final season, Pitcher said about six players went to play for UVU. The rest decided to just focus on finishing their degrees.

How he believes the team could help more people love hockey

Pitcher said not only Utah, but the West as a whole is getting more interested in hockey. The NHL has brought new teams to Las Vegas and Seattle since 2017. Pitcher also said that Arizona State’s hockey team expanded to Division I in recent years.

If it’s any indication, after the 2002 Olympics, Pitcher said more kids started playing hockey and more ice rinks were built. He thinks a possible NHL team and the likely return of the Winter Olympics in 2034 are helping promote the sport again.

But, he also said he wished BYU could join other local college teams to help get more people interested in the sport.

“I think it would have grown. I think it would have grown with the other college teams here in the state and I think they kind of missed out,” Pitcher said. 

To this day, he hopes they can find a way to bring the team back. But, even if that happened Pitcher said they’d be “playing catch-up.”

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Former BYU hockey coach excited for NHL in Utah, but longs for his old team