Herman turning El Paso into hockey mecca
Cory Herman is a long way from home. The Canadian native from a small farming town in Saskatchewan has turned El Paso into a hockey factory.
"To be honest, I never thought we'd come this far," said Herman, the head coach and general manager of the El Paso Rhinos hockey team.
Herman came to El Paso in the late 1990s to play for the El Paso Buzzards. After one season, he was told his playing career was over because he had suffered too many concussions. Instead of leaving town, he decided to start a youth hockey program in El Paso.
"I saw all the fans that had showed-up for Buzzards games, so I knew El Paso liked hockey," Herman said. "It was just a matter of how to get the kids in El Paso to start playing hockey."
Once the youth program began developing, kids began taking a liking to the cold clime sport. All they needed was a team for which to play. That's when he created a junior hockey team called the Rhinos. "Junior hockey is all about developing kids between the ages of 18 and 20 to help them get picked up by a good college team or even a professional team."
Word began to spread as hundreds of players from around the world started coming to El Paso to try out for the Rhinos. One Rhinos player from Hungary signed with an NHL team last year. Another former Rhinos player from El Paso's Chapin High School was the MVP of the NCAA championship game two years ago. "Most of the kids that come here are from cold-weather places, so they like that they can come to practice here in El Paso wearing shorts and flip-flops," Herman said.
Rhinos players who do not go on to play in college or the pros still wanted a team they could play on as they got older. That's when Herman and his brother Tom created a club team at UTEP. "The players still get to play against great teams from around the country, and continue their playing careers," Herman said.
The El Paso Rhinos have captured one national championship, eight conference titles and two league championships. The UTEP hockey club won its conference championship in their second year of existence last season. The Miners lost in the regional tournament to the eventual champion Denver Pioneers.
"What we (his staff) have all done here is unbelievable," Herman said.