Bakersfield Roughnecks to join USPHL Premier’s Pacific Division for 2022-23 season
The United States Premier Hockey League announced Wednesday that the Bakersfield Roughnecks will be joining the USPHL Premier league in the 2022-23, joining the Pacific Division.
The founders and proprietors of the Roughnecks are Christian and Sara Gregory, longtime participants in the youth hockey community of Bakersfield. The name “Roughneck,” a slang term for an oil rig worker, pays tribute to the dominant industry of the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley.
“For the last three years, I’ve been the president of Bakersfield Jr. Condors Youth Hockey, and Sara is on the board,” said Christian Gregory. “We have been involved with the organization for 15 years. I know this town can support this junior program, and we’re excited to bring a new level of hockey to town to join with the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oilers’ top farm team.”
“The United States Premier Hockey League is thrilled to welcome the Bakersfield Roughnecks to start play in the USPHL Premier next season,” added USPHL commissioner Bob Turow. “We are excited to be part of the growth of junior hockey, and hockey as a whole, in the vibrant market that is California. We are also excited to see another junior hockey team working alongside a fine professional team such as the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.”
The Gregory family became involved with hockey through their sons, who began playing roller hockey and shortly thereafter turned to ice hockey.
“Our big thing is we pride ourselves on being involved, we had three boys that we started in youth hockey and moved on to juniors and college hockey. Our youngest son is at home, currently,” said Sara. “We were able to create new Learn to Play and Learn to Skate programs in town here, even during the worst of the COVID crisis. This is the next step for us.”
The Mechanics Bank Arena, home to the AHL’s Condors, which replaced an ECHL team of the same name, is located directly across from the Roughnecks’ home arena, Valley Children’s Ice Center, which was built in 2003.
“We met with [Mechanics Bank Arena], but feel that the smaller venue will make for more lively home games. We’ll get fans packed in and get that better home ice advantage at the Valley Children’s Ice Center,” said Christian.
The Roughnecks were originally looking at a potential start in 2021-22, but with the COVID crisis still raging on during their talks with USPHL league management, it was decided by all parties to delay a year.
“We actually started talks with [former USPHL commissioner Richard Gallant], but we really needed the year to put the program together and make sure it’s successful. If you don’t put a good product together, it could backfire,” said Christian. “The last six, seven months, we’ve gone through all the paperwork and gone over all the numbers with Bob Turow. We’ve also reached out to other owners in the league to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
The Roughnecks will join a lively and growing Pacific Division, in which they will have a built-in rival just about a two-hour drive north in the Fresno Monsters. Then, turning south, they’ll face the Long Beach Shredders and Ontario Jr. Reign in the Los Angeles vicinity. Another couple hours south from there are the San Diego Sabers.
Further north and east from Bakersfield are the Lake Tahoe Lakers and the Las Vegas Thunderbirds. The Lakers, Jr. Reign and Shredders are all new teams for 2021-22.
They know that competition for top talent will be fierce, not just with their fellow Pacific Division members but in junior hockey as a whole. They’ll be getting out in full force over the next year and off-season to find the right players and personalities to make the first-year Roughnecks successful on and off the ice.
“We’ll have tryout camps and scouting events. We’ll be going with our own Jr. Condors AA team to some showcases, where we will be able to scout players, as well as at Globals in Las Vegas,” said Sara. “We also have contacts in different leagues and scouting areas and we are affiliated with different teams. We may try to align ourselves with another USPHL team to hold a joint tryout camp.”
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(October 14, 2021)