EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso is Hockeyville USA.
The Arizona Coyotes and the Dallas Stars played an National Hockey League (NHL) preseason game at the El Paso County Events Center on Sunday night, in front of an exclusive capacity crowd of just under 1,200 fans. The Stars won the game, 6-3, outscoring the Coyotes 3-0 in the third period.
It was more than just a game, it was an all-week event. On Thursday, the Stanley Cup made its way to El Paso and was on display across the city. A youth skills camp was held on Saturday at the Events Center, and before Sunday’s game, both teams held their skate-arounds inside the home of the El Paso Rhinos with fans in attendance.
“It’s pretty unbelievable to be honest with you,” said Rhinos owner Cory Herman. “All of our fans and our city got to see an NHL practice and then they got to see an NHL game. It’s a pretty special day.”
It was no doubt a special day for the fans, but it works both ways. Members of the Coyotes and the Stars were excited to get the opportunity to come play in El Paso, and grow their fan base.. It’s just another way the NHL continues to give back to hockey communities across the country through the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
“It’s important that we grow our game,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. “Coming to El Paso is a wonderful thing for us, for our franchise, for the state of Texas and the city of El Paso.”
Past winners in the United States include Calumet (MI), Clinton (NY), Belle Vernon (PA), Marquette (MI) and Johnstown (PA).
“I think for most of us, when we see these games, we’d rather go to a small city rather than a Chicago or somewhere big,” said Coyotes forward Christian Fischer. “That’s the point of this game and of this event.”
Adults became kids again this week, while kids were treated to a once in a lifetime experience by the NHL.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski, who scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal in the third period on Sunday. “We all remember when we were young and playing, watching our favorite players and things like that. It’s fun to be in this setting, see their faces and throw some pucks around.”
By winning the Kraft Hockeyville contest through a fan vote in 2020, the Rhinos received $150K in arena upgrades. The money went towards new ice inside the arena, a new roof to better insulate the ice, LED lights and bathrooms.