Andres Acosta / El Paso Herald-Post
Officials with the El Paso Rhinos announced that the team will join the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) for the 2020-21 season.
Over the past few seasons, the organization has considered moving up to the NAHL. In March, when the season was cut short due to COVID-19, the Rhinos’ ownership group decided to shift its focus entirely.
Rhino Head Coach Cory Herman explains, “Being in the NAHL has always been our goal. [The NAHL] brand, professionalism and level of play is where we want our program to be. Joining the NAHL and NA3 gives players two options and it helps our program grow.”
For the North American Hockey League, the El Paso’s unique hockey community has the tools, resources, and support necessary to help the league expand farther into the Southwest.
“We are excited to add a new team like El Paso to the NAHL footprint. We believe they have all the pieces in place for success, which includes great community support and involvement,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “The growth of hockey in the South has played a large role in our league’s success and the addition of the new team in El Paso continues to solidify the footprint and will create many new and exciting rivalries. With the addition of their NA3HL team, who will begin play in 2020-21, they have a great foundation for player development.”
The NA3HL is also looking forward to adding its 32nd team to the league. “We are excited to continue our growth in the South Division with the addition of the El Paso Rhinos,” said NA3HL Commissioner Blake MacNicol. “The Rhinos have an established organization with a focus on player development and advancement, along with a rich tradition of community outreach and support. I think the passionate fans of the El Paso Rhinos will enjoy the brand of hockey the NA3HL will bring and also the new rivalries that will be established.”
The NA3HL is one of two USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III Junior leagues and the NAHL is the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league. The primary goals of both the NA3HL and the NAHL are to adequately train players and provide resources—namely coaching, exposure and developmental vehicles—that will help them secure NCAA hockey scholarships.
Over the course of the last five seasons, over 1,500 NAHL players have made NCAA commitments and 30have been drafted into the NHL.
Herman is eager to introduce such a high caliber of talent to El Paso.
“The players in the NAHL are future NHL draft picks and Division I college hockey players. It’s very exciting for our program to have that level of hockey in El Paso.”
In 2020-21, the Rhinos will play in the NA3HL’s South Division of the where their opponent list will include teams from Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
Like the WSHL’s series and season format, three-game series will be played on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Rhinos also will play a 47-game regular-season, playoffs, and possibly in the FraserCup Championship Tournament, which crowns the NA3HL’s playoff champion.