Get ready to watch some pucks fly as Sweetwater County is about to experience a whole new level of ice hockey. The Rock Springs Grizzlies’ Junior “A” League hockey is coming this September to Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Darren Naylor is excited to bring hockey back to Rock Springs. Naylor is the club’s first General Manager and Head Coach. Naylor recently spent four years as GM and Head Coach in the BCHL where his club made it to the Finals in his final season.
“I’ve been involved in hockey. I have played junior hockey and minor professional hockey. I then got into coaching. Where we are up in Canada and British Columbia, we wanted to get a team down in the States and in the NCDC Division specifically. We set about early last year looking for locations for the team, did some research, drove around to a bunch of markets in the area, and visited Rock Springs. We really felt the market is ready for this high level of hockey we’re about to bring. I think the town is ready for something like this.”
Naylor expressed how excited they are and ready to come to Rock Springs.
“I played in the Western Hockey League back in the 1980s, then progressed onto minor professional hockey for about seven years. I began my coaching career in about ’96 or ’97 and have been coaching junior hockey ever since. I am a lifetime hockey guy with lots of connections in the game. Being up in British Columbia where we were in the BCHL, our main focus was to get players into the NCAA. We have put over 100 kids there in the last five years. We are pretty excited about that,” Naylor explained.
The NCDC is divided into three divisions. The Grizzlies are the newest franchise in the NCDC and are starting its 2023-24 Season this year in the newest division, NCDC Mountain.
“It basically absorbed a league that was out west before. The Grizzlies came in as an expansion team. The level of play is going to be something the people of Rock Springs have never experienced. It’s going to be really high-level hockey. These kids are one step away from becoming NCAA players and professional hockey players.”
The Rock Springs Community is in for a treat with the newest team in town.
A majority of players on the roster are from the United States and Canada with one Russian player so far. The roster consists of 16-to 20-year-olds. With the NCDC rules, only four 20-year-olds will be accepted and the rest is wide open to the 16-19 range. Each team consists of 26 players, with 23 being skaters and 3 goalies. There is a camp in August and early September to help get the number down to 26. According to Naylor, the camp will be very competitive as he’s begun the recruitment of players.
“Being on the ground and starting from ground zero is going to be pretty rewarding. We actually get to drop the puck there in the arena, see the fans in the building and get to watch the players. For me, it’s a bit of a whirlwind right now, from recruiting players to building a brand new dressing room in the arena, trying to get billet families and sponsorships as well as season tickets. We believe we have an infrastructure now with a front office, which gives us more time to focus on the hockey part of it. We can’t wait to get there and get things going and watch us as we score our first goal on the home opener,” Naylor explained.
Naylor mentioned, “This is the highest level of hockey in the whole state of Wyoming. People of Rock Springs are going to be attracted to it and entertained. We are very community-oriented people. We like to get the players out in the community, reading at schools, or just visiting local people. We make sure our players are actively out in the community.”
Training camp starts August 1, and will continue for a few weeks. The first exhibition game will be on Sept. 8 and then another one on Sept. 15. The Home Opener will be held on Sept. 22. The last game for the regular season will be held in March.
Grizzlies’ season tickets are on sale now with discounts for seniors and students. Business sponsorships are also available. The community can get involved and become a Grizzlies volunteer or help to house Grizzlies players and be a Billet family. Season tickets, sponsorship information, and volunteer information can be found at RockSpringsGrizzlies.com.