EP Townsquare: Meet the Mayor of Kraft Hockeyville, Cory Herman
Believe it or not, El Paso, Texas, is Kraft Hockeyville USA. Officially named and congratulated by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and everything.
We spoke with El Paso Rhinos head coach and the man behind the plan, Cory Herman, about what the honor will mean to his junior team; but even more importantly, what it will mean for the El Paso Hockey Association, which encompasses not just the Rhinos but youth programs, adult hockey, its Learn To Skate program, figure skating and much more.
Yes, there will be an NHL exhibition game at some point in the future at the El Paso County Events Center. But it's the $150,000 in rink upgrades that will be first prize for the EPHA, if for no other reason than the added insulation will mean better ice for more time.
One of those times will be next May. On the verge of what is usually El Paso's hottest time of the year – which, not coincidentally, is when the Events Center's ice is melted and the rink goes dormant for the summer – the Rhinos will host a tryout camp for what will be the organization's new North American Hockey League team.
Over 300 hockey players eager to show their skills will be making their way to the Sun City, along with parents, siblings and friends, for a four-day shot in the arm for area hotels, restaurants and shops. Especially as our city is hopefully able to bring itself out of the coronavirus bubble, the tryouts will be a huge help.
Even with the Rhinos' final season in the Western States Hockey League prematurely ended by the virus, this last year has seen hockey in El Paso take huge strides forward.
From the NHL.com's Bill Douglas and the NHL on NBC Sports' Anson Carter coming to cover the Rhinos' exhibition games against the Mexican junior national team, to the jump to the NA3HL this season and NAHL next, to winning Kraft Hockeyville and all that comes with it, Herman and the EPHA have put the sport on the power play, not just here but internationally.
Having come this far in just two decades, it makes you wonder what they'll do next.