NAHL team in El Paso, Texas approved for the 2021-22 season
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that its Board of Governors has approved the membership application for an NAHL team in El Paso, Texas. The El Paso Rhinos will compete in the South Division beginning in the 2021-22 season and play out of the El Paso County Events Center.
The NAHL has had a team in the Southern part of the United States since 1999 and the South Division first was formed in 2003. The division currently has eight teams competing in the NAHL: Amarillo Bulls (Amarillo, TX), Corpus Christi IceRays (Corpus Christi, TX), Kansas City Scouts (Shawnee, KS), Lone Star Brahmas (North Richland Hills, Texas), New Mexico Ice Wolves (Albuquerque, NM), Odessa Jackalopes (Odessa, TX), Shreveport Mudbugs (Shreveport, LA), and Wichita Falls Warriors (Wichita Falls, TX). El Paso will be the ninth team in the South Division of the NAHL starting in the 2021-22 season.
“We are excited to add a new team like El Paso to the NAHL footprint. We believe they have all the pieces in place for success, which includes great community support and involvement,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “The growth of hockey in the South has played a large role in our league’s success and the addition of the new team in El Paso continues to solidify the footprint and will create many new and exciting rivalries. With the addition of their NA3HL team, who will begin play in 2020-21, they have a great foundation for player development.”
The NAHL is a top destination league for players that are looking to earn an NCAA commitment and eventually play professional hockey. In the past five years, 1,400+ NAHL players have made NCAA commitments and 30 more with NAHL ties have been selected in the NHL Draft. In addition, 34% of all freshmen that played NCAA Division I hockey this past season, played in the NAHL. During this past 2019-20 season, 329 players have made NCAA commitments, 232 of which (70%) were NCAA Division 1 commitments.
The Rhinos announced they will have a team in the NA3HL beginning in the 2020-21 season, which will be followed by the addition of an NAHL team in 2021-22. Founded in 2001 as a youth hockey team, the El Paso Rhinos played their first junior hockey game in 2006. Since that game, the Rhino staff has strived to improve every facet of hockey and business operations, develop players, and grow the program each season.
“The Rhino franchise has modeled their objectives after the NAHL excellent level of play, commitment to players' career advancement and personal development, and the league's overall business professionalism. As an organization and ownership group, we believe that the step to the NAHL will facilitate the growth and development of the Rhinos’ program and athletes, and in turn, help the organization continue to expand and succeed in the years to come,” said Rhinos Owner and Head Coach Cory Herman.
Over the past four seasons, 90% of all the El Paso Rhinos home games have sold out. Between 2017 and 2019, the Rhinos had 37 straight sellouts. Each game, over 15 off-ice officials volunteer to provide a professional experience for teams, referees, and fans. All off-ice officials previously worked for the semi-professional team, the El Paso Buzzards, and have volunteered with the Rhinos since the team’s inception. At the El Paso County Events Center, the Rhinos’ locker room contains 25 player stalls, a flat screen television, and a surround-sound system. Connected to the locker room is the bathroom, with five showers, and the training room, fully stocked with all practice and game-day essentials.