I decided to come to El Paso after Christmas break in 2009 and then played my final year of junior hockey for the Rhinos in 2009-2010.
How did I become a Rhino?
I actually was looking around after a less than stellar first half of the season in 2008. Anthony Natali, who I had previously known from playing together for the Peoria Mustangs, told me that I would love El Paso. During Christmas break I sent an email and got a 30 second call from Coach Herman before he had Trevor Converse talk with me. A couple days later I was getting off a plane in Dallas and getting picked up by a bus with a giant Rhino head on the side of it.
There’s no doubt that my days in El Paso had a major impact on the person I am today. All of my teammates, coaches and the fans were unbelievable. I will always say that the 2009-2010 Rhinos team was the closest group of guys I’ve ever played with. Coach Herman and Murray Bates are two unbelievable role models that taught me to put my head down and work hard. More than anything, I learned to HATE TO LOSE playing under Coach Herman.
Most Memorable Moment
There are too many to decide! But if I had to pick one moment, it would be in 2009 after winning a series that guaranteed the team a trip to nationals. It had been a tough year for me before I got to El Paso, but I knew I had made the right decision when I went into the locker room, got my phone and called my Dad to tell him that we were going to the national tournament. It was just one of those moments I’ll never forget.
Picture this. I arrive in Dallas to join the team and Coach Herman says about two words to me, handing me my hotel key and telling me what time to be on the bus. We win all three games that weekend, and I’m pretty sure we scored 30 goals. I was already a little unsure of the WSHL and my decision to join the Rhinos.
I step on the ice for practice Monday morning as the sun comes up, not really sure what the practice was going to be like. The first drill was just a shooting drill with no contact—pretty simple stuff compared to Herm’s 7-pass North Dakota drill or his 3v2, dump-in, breakout, backcheck, cross check, 10 pushup, butt-crawl drill with four lines on the ice at the same time. (Really, some drills were just crazy) I look up in the middle of the drill and Berger and Will Brown are fighting. IN THE FIRST DRILL! I look back and laugh now, but at the time I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into!
What do I miss?
I miss everything. I miss the boys, the coaches and the fans. I miss our “awesome” apartments and walking across the parking lot to hang out with my teammates. I miss going to the Backstreet gym and working out while I watched Deloach mess with the infamous Mary. I miss spending an hour in the locker room after Thursday practices then heading to Whataburger for a Honey-Butter Chicken Biscuit with the guys. I miss the long bus rides and waking up to “NHL on the Fly” at 4 AM on repeat. I miss everything the Rhino organization gave me.... and then some.
I am actually at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with former Rhinos Ridge, Balks, Gualano and Erickson. I haven’t won any awards, but I’m negotiating with Balks for one of his. I’ll keep you posted.
I am graduating in 2014 with a double major in Marketing and Sports Management, along with a minor in public relations. My newfound love is writing. I’ve started a blog with Trevor Erickson and Nick Gualano, writing about the NHL. At this point, I’d love to get a job working in public relations / communications for a professional hockey organization.
I could write two pages on my experience in El Paso, and if you'd like to read it, visit out the article on my blog talking about what the experience meant to me. http://kettscorner.blogspot.com/2013/02/one-of-few-reasons-hockey-players-will.html