The El Paso Rhinos, the city’s championship hockey club, is moving on up.
The United Hockey Union, along with the Amateur Athletic Union, have announced that a new, higher Tier I league will begin play in the 2017 season and the 2015 Thorne Cup finalist El Paso Rhinos will be part of it, officials announced Tuesday at a news conference at the El Paso County Coliseum.
The level of talent in the new league will be Junior A Tier I, which is the highest level of junior hockey in the United States and Canada.
The more competitive league will be directly affiliated with the UHU, AAU and the Tier II and Tier III leagues currently in operation.
The selected six founding members of the new Central One Hockey League are:
• Oklahoma City Blazers
• Springfield Express
• Casper Coyotes
• Colorado Eagles
• Ogden Mustangs
Coach and general manager Cory Herman said the Rhinos, the 2014 Western States Hockey League Thorne Cup Champions, are looking forward to the new level of play.
“This is a huge step for El Paso in the hockey world,” Herman said. “We will be seeing the highest level of hockey players playing in an El Paso Rhinos jersey – Division 1 prospects and signees, NHL prospects, draft picks and signed players.”
“We are very proud to have been selected as one of the few cities to start a league of this caliber,” added Brian Kennedy, president and CEO of the El Paso Sports Commission, which oversees the El Paso County Coliseum, the home ice for the Rhinos.
The new top-level league will produce players who have the talent to compete in the NHL and its farm leagues. Former Rhino goalie Adam Vay recently signed with NHL powerhouse Minnesota Wild.
“It’s great to have a team that can send top players to not only college, but to the pros as well,” Kennedy said.
This year, the El Paso Rhinos kick off the season Oct. 14 against the Arizona Hawks. The home season gets underway at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 against the Dallas Snipers at the El Paso County Coliseum Special Events Center, 4100 E. Paisano.
Tickets are $5 for general admission, $10 for Grey Section seats, $15 for Orange Section seats, $20 for Glass Section seats and free for military with ID. They are available at the El Paso County Coliseum Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 800-745-3000 and online at ticketmaster.com.
For more information fans can call 479-PUCK (7825) or 533-9899 or log on to elpasorhinos.com