The El Paso hockey scene was booming long before it achieved Hockeyville status, which is why it won Hockeyville status.
Kraft Online Contest which won Sunday’s exhibition game between the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes, as well as $ 150,000 in renovations to the El Paso County Events Center, gave El Paso a title that was built over the past 20 years of the El Paso Hockey Association’s existence.
This is an important milestone for El Paso, for his NAHL hockey team, the Rhinos, and for EPHA as a whole.
“This is a huge event,” said Cory Herman, the founder and director of EPHA and coach of the Rhinos. “I never thought the Stanley Cup would be here in El Paso. I’m really proud of the city, excited for the city. It will be a big event, we can’t wait for Sunday to come.
“It’s a huge boost, a huge boost to all of our programs: our youth program, our figure skating program, our learn to skate program, the Rhinos. Yes, this is huge for us.
Herman estimated that among EPHA’s 15 programs, which span all ages, including sold-out sales typical for Rhino games and the UTEP and Coronado High club programs, approximately 10,000 people have a connection with EPHA.
The NHL was quick to seize El Paso’s status in Hockeyville to highlight the sport’s growing popularity in the Hispanic community.
“That says Texas Hispanics love hockey,” Stars president and CEO Brad Alberts told NHL.com. “As more and more Hispanics have access to the game, both from the kids who grow up and play it in our rinks and who have access to the start of the game, to the adults, and bring them in. in games, I think they’re going to find it’s a sport that they can feel comfortable watching, playing and enjoying. “
Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez told NHL.com that this exhibit is “a great opportunity to really say that it’s a community, in terms of Latinos, that is a priority for us, that we seek to embrace, celebrate and connect with.
“It is clearly a rapidly growing and increasingly important community, both a demographic and an economic force in America.”
Gutierrez is the NHL’s first Hispanic CEO.
The Rhinos, a historically dominant junior hockey team now entering the NAHL, have a Mexico player in goalie Tomas Payno.
“I think it’s really special to have him in El Paso, especially for the growth of the game in the southern United States,” Payno said. “That’s a really interesting thing. Further down, I think it presents a great opportunity for Mexico, the game to have movement in Mexico, to grow in Mexico, to grow in the southern United States. just this beautiful game that we all love. “
Rhino center Jordan Zelenak is from Minnesota, closer to the Canadian border than Mexico, but he marveled at the reception he received for the game in El Paso.
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“It’s amazing,” he said. “Before I came here we didn’t know hockey was important here, but the community loves the game. Rewarding them by seeing the Cup and all that the NHL is amazing to them and to everyone out there. will participate. to be here for years afterwards. “
Herman said, “It can build a fan base and an overall awareness of hockey in the Southwest.”