El Paso Hockey Fans Rejoice as NHL Arrives in Sun City

Antonio Villasenor-Baca, Writer

After a year of waiting, El Paso hockey fans new and old are finally receiving their 2020 Kraft Hockeyville prize as they host the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.

Kraft Hockeyville, a contest in its sixth year now, awards $150,000 to one community in the U.S.for renovations to their hockey arena, as well as hosting an NHL pre-season game, and other events. 

The celebrations, however, were pushed back a year by the pandemic. But that didn’t spoil the festivities for Sun City hockey fans who showed up Thursday, September 30, to kick off the fun with NHL alumni, mascots, a photo booth, seeing the Stanley Cup in person, and more. 

Tyler Deloach, director of operations for the El Paso Rhinos explained that even though the pandemic delayed the competition, the significance behind winning Kraft Hockeyville is immense, citing it as a possible key factor in the growth of hockey in El Paso and the ability to give back to the community through their championship title.

“Kraft Hockeyville is basically awarding the most spirited hockey community in the United States and when we won it in 2020, we were super, super excited. Now that we’re able to experience this, we’re able to have NHL alumni, we’re able to have the Stanley Cup, we’re able to have this NHL game. We’re extremely excited,” Deloach said.

And the community was ecstatic to be hosting the NHL. San Jacinto Plaza filled with Rhinos jerseys, Stars jerseys, Coyotes jerseys, and a plethora of other NHL teams, from clusters of Boston Bruins fans to Washington Capitols and St. Louis Blues jerseys. 

Mike Snyder, a local Rhinos fan and Las Vegas Golden Knights fan, showed up in his new Arizona Coyotes jersey to have it signed by NHL alumni Shane Doan, Dave Scatchard, and Taylor Pyatt. 

“This event is really awesome because of the El Paso Rhinos. Typically, the arena is kind of like a barn. It used to be like a rodeo. So us winning Kraft Hockeyville only makes it more special and us knowing who we are as a family, as the El Paso Rhinos hockey association,” said Snyder. 

Karla Contreras and Alexis Rodriguez look forward to the possibility of holding the Stanley Cup in El Paso. After the pair made it a date night to go out and visit the Stanley Cup ahead of their Dallas Stars’ arrival in El Paso, 

“I wanted to see the Stanley Cup in person. Not a lot of people get that chance so it’s very exciting,” Contreras said. “We’ve been to one Rhinos game and we want to go to more but then COVID happened. But most recently we went to a Stars game in Dallas. It was fun, it was so exciting. Something totally different I feel, when you leave your city, but it’s nice to bring it back home.”

Contreras became a fan following the footsteps of her boyfriend, she said. Rodriguez, who only started paying attention to hockey a few years ago as well added about the events “they did a great job with the event, getting El Paso more involved with the hockey community.”

John Montelongo and his daughter Alondra attended the event as a family activity. 

Montelongo tried to explain how he was  “glad the hockey community in El Paso is actually…” before being interjected by Alondra who finished her father’s statement “coming together!” He agreed and continued saying the Kraft Hockeyville events are “making it known that El Paso is a hockey city. I’ve been playing since I was small. My daughter now plays. And it’s just awesome to see everyone out here enjoying.” 

The Dallas Stars take on the Arizona Coyotes at 7p.m. at the El Paso County Events Center Sunday, October 3rd.