For years, there have been young hockey players who call Tooele County home, but didn’t have a team to call their own.
That meant joining up with a team in Salt Lake County, or just playing in recreational leagues on the weekends. But while there still isn’t a hockey rink west of the Oquirrh Mountains, there is a team: the Tooele County Outlaws, a squad made up of players from all the area high schools that competes against teams from throughout northern Utah.
The team wrapped up its season with a hard-fought 5-3 loss to Riverton on Monday night at Acord Ice Center in West Valley City, an exciting back-and-forth affair that saw the Outlaws pull within a goal late in the third period before yielding an empty-net goal in the waning seconds. For two seniors — Tooele High student Kate Michael and Stansbury High’s Kyle McKenna — Monday marked the final game of their high-school careers, and both took the time to reflect afterward, posing for pictures on the ice with their parents and accepting well-wishes from coaches and teammates.
“It’s been really great,” Michael said of the opportunity to play for the Outlaws. “I think it’s really cool to be able to represent where I’m from and my school and my peers.”
Michael was inspired to take up the sport after watching her Canadian father play in what she jokingly termed “old-man leagues.” She plays for the Utah Lady Grizzlies travel team in addition to suiting up for the Outlaws.
“I’m just really thankful that we have hockey in Utah,” said Michael, who also served as the starting goalkeeper for Tooele High’s girls soccer team this past season. “It’s not that big of a sport out here, but I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to come out here and play.”
Michael said it has been an interesting experience playing for the Outlaws as a female player in a mostly male league.
“It’s been a really good experience playing with the boys,” she said. “They play a little rougher than girls, but it’s been really fun and I’ve made a lot of really good friends.”
McKenna got started in the sport as a youngster, taking part in the “Start Smart” program when he was five or six years old, he said. He’s been playing the sport ever since, but it wasn’t until last year that Tooele County got its own team.
“We didn’t have a team out where we were, so the first couple years I didn’t get to play high school hockey — just the past two years, junior and senior year,” McKenna said. “I’m glad we got a chance to get a team.”
McKenna also had to balance multiple sports during hockey season. He was a key part of Stansbury High’s football team, whose run to the Class 4A state semifinals meant that he had to sacrifice rink time to help the Stallions’ cause on the gridiron.
“I still feel like I dedicated sufficient time to hockey,” he said. “I wish I could have done more for myself and the team.”
McKenna enjoys seeing the game from different perspectives. He said as fun as hockey is to watch, it’s 10 times more fun when you’re on the ice, whether you’re playing, officiating or just skating.
He feels that with the creation of the Outlaws, Tooele County’s hockey community is only going to get better.
“There’s a lot of growth out there, so I see a lot of potential,” he said.