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The Utah Blaze are back

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - The Utah Blaze arena football team has joined the newly-formed AF1 League, and will begin playing games in April.
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Arena football is back in Utah and so are the Utah Blaze.

Team owner Dave Affleck made the official announcement Tuesday in a press conference at the E Center, where the Blaze will play their home games.

“We decided it would be in the best interest of our fans and franchise to come back and be the Utah Blaze,” said Affleck.

The Utah Blaze played three seasons under different ownership in the Arena Football League (AFL) before the league ceased operations in December 2008. Now the team, under new ownership, is back as a member of the newly formed Arena Football One.

“We have a lot to live up to. The Blaze was a great team and a great organization and they were one of the most thought of organizations in the AFL. We’re working to do our best to do everything that the Blaze stood for,” Affleck said.

Arena Football One, which was organized by the people who originally established the AFL 23 years ago, bid for the assets of the AFL, including trademarks and logos, and in December 2009 won the bid, paving the way for the use of the Blaze name.

Mayor Mike Winder was in attendance and welcomed the Blaze to West Valley City.

“What an exciting day for sports in Utah,” he said. “We’re thrilled to have the Blaze in West Valley City. I am just one person but I think I represent many, many people in the community who are very excited and will welcome the team with open arms.”

In addition to announcing the team name, Affleck introduced Steve Videtich, a former player and front office member of the Blaze, as the team’s general manager.

“Steve has come in and added a great deal of insight to how the AFL has been run in the past and I really don’t think we could be here without Steve,” Affleck said.

“In talking with the fans so far, they are unbelievably excited and so happy that arena football is back and we’re happy it’s back,” said Videtich, who played 13 years in the AFL. “We’re happy to be playing at the E Center. I think this is the premiere arena in Utah to display our game.”

Videtich later introduced Ernesto Purnsley as the team’s first head coach.

“We were looking for someone with a tireless work ethic, someone who new personnel and someone who knew how to teach to the game of arena football,” Videtich said. “We found our guy. He is everything we looked for in a head coach and we’re excited about the opportunity that he presents us. He gives us the best shot to having success right out of the gate.”

Purnsley, who has 10 years of Arena Football League experience, spent five seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Colorado Crush before being hired as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Rush in 2008.

“I’m happy to be a part of the Utah Blaze and AF1 for their inaugural season. For Blaze fans I think they should expect the same type of game they have been used to seeing. There will be some new faces for them to get behind and develop a relationship with,” he said. “For all the people that haven’t experienced a game yet, it will be great to bring the family and see what AF1 is all about.”

Prior to coaching in Colorado, Purnsley was the special teams coach and fullbacks and linebackers coach on two separate occasions for the Albany Firebirds (1997-98) and Indiana Firebirds (2000-03).

Purnsely, a native of North Carolina, played collegiate football at Catawba College (S.C) where he was a wide receiver and quarterback. In 1991 he was the wide receivers coach at Concord College (West Virginia). He has also coached at Southern Illinois (1994-96), Charleston Southern University (1997) and Murray State (1998-99).

The Blaze open the 2010 season April 9 when they host the Spokane Shock.
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