Seven former college hockey players from Utah have signed professional contracts in the United States and Europe, and another five may sign before the season starts.

Eight of the players are from Weber State, three are from Utah State and one is from BYU.

"I still can't believe it," said Chris Webber, who signed with a team in Spain. "I'm still in shock."

David Imonti, who played for WSU and is now an agent for all of the players, set up a tryout in Ogden to allow scouts and coaches from around the world to view what these players had to offer. Imonti said players from Utah signing pro contracts has been long overdue.

"I think the talent has been here but we haven't had the resources," he said. "This could have happened earlier."

From WSU, Brian Allen will play for the Solihul Ice Barons in England, Wade Albert will play for the GIJS Grizzlies in Italy, Chad Wilcox will play for the Thetford Prolab Mines , T.J. Nykiel will play for the Flint Generals, and Chad Smith, Steve Soto and Seth Libby may sign before play begins, Imonti said. Also, Imonti said Eric Johnson is still deciding between three contract offers in Europe.

From USU, Aaron Burrell signed with the Turnhout White Caps in Belgium, Webber signed with Majadahonda in Madrid and Nick Thiros signed with the Troisdorf Dynamite in Germany. Tamio Stehrenberger, from BYU, may also sign soon, Imonti said.

This is the first time players from USU have signed pro contracts. WSU has had players sign before, but Imonti said they were not as ironclad as these contracts.

"Granted, all of these contracts are entry-level," he said. "But if they put their mind to it, I don't see why all of them can't play at the elite level. It all depends on how it develops."

Burrell said he always knew he was good enough to play after college but never thought he would have the chance.

"It was always kind of a pipe dream," he said. "(Imonti) has been great."

Imonti said this many players signing will be a big recruiting tool for Utah college club teams. "A lot of people played club hockey thinking it's the end of their career," he said.

No college in Utah has a varsity hockey team. USU, WSU, BYU and UVSC have Division-II club teams and WSU also has a D-I club team.


E-mail: bhinton@desnews.com