EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are around the corner and with that comes the showcase of the world’s best athletes in 15 different winter sports.
Ice Hockey is one of the Winter Olympics signature sports as the game has been featured at every Winter Games since 1924.
The sport continues to grow across the country, especially here in the Borderland.
The El Paso Hockey Association and El Paso Rhinos offer several ice hockey programs for players at any age and skill level in a fun and learning environment in hopes of helping the sport thrive in the area.
When a growing a sport, where is a good place to start?
“It starts with our youth,” said Hayden Kowalski, who is the El Paso Hockey Association Youth Hockey Director. “Everybody here with the Rhinos has the same vision of growing hockey and what a better place to do it on the border.”
Players get the chance to develop their skills and progress through the ranks of the program. Along the way, players get to learn from some of those who are familiar with the ice in El Paso.
“We’ve got a lot of ex-Rhino players here helping coach the teams within the youth program and wanting to give back to a city that meant a lot to them and helping to grow the sport.”
One of those former Rhinos players now turned into coach is Lukas Znosko, who played for the the club in 2014-2015.
Znosko currently takes on the role of head coach for the Rhinos’ 14U NAPHL team.
“Hockey has given me everything I have today,” said Znosko. “If I can give back and just be able to continue to be around the sport and to continue to put the skates on in anyway is always fun.”
When it comes to the future of the sport played on ice in the Sun City, it seems to be heading in the right direction.
“Honestly, I think the sky is the limit,” said Kowalski. “The program is just continuing to grow every year. People want hockey here and we have the ability to offer it as far as youth teams and youth programs of all ages.”
“I think it gets bigger every year,” said Znosko. “The more kids we bring in and the more it grows, it is going to benefit the city and the kids.”
EPHA also has other competitive programs for beginners.
Programs like the Jr. Rhinos and Dallas Stars Learn to Play Program are a good way for those new to the sport to learn the fundamentals of ice hockey, according to Kowalski.
For more information, you can visit the El Paso Hockey Association website.