10/21/2010 11:15 AM
Just Chirp’n 2010-2011 #8
October 21, 2010
by Michael Hissam
After nearly eight months, they’re about ready to drop the puck in El Paso as the Rhinos open their 2010-2011 season this weekend at the special events center. Arch-rival Boulder Bison – the team that derailed the Rhinos’ playoff hopes last season – provides the opposition in front of what promises to be a raucous barn on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Raucous and El Paso hockey generally are synonymous; aplomb and charm do not fit with that thought.
Other than Year One when everyone was new, this year’s squad features 16 new guys on the team.
Hanging around the rink for this week’s Media Day event, there is a sense that the team has started to pick up Coach Cory Herman’s system for which the most basic definition is “hard work, play every shift as though it is your last and ‘blue collar.’” The latter reminds players that in Herman’s game, scoring is great, but there is also work to be done on the other end of the rink in front of your own goalie.
Another observation dealt with an intangible of team. Sixteen new guys seem to be meshing better with the veterans. Having seen it in a locker room meeting and out for the cameras on the ice – just about everyone has his new hockey name. That energy needs to transfer to the ice. The byes of the past two weekends may have given the squad the opportunity to focus on team, not the individual nor the individual’s stats that so often can result in a mental block and lack of execution – ingredients for the wrong side of the scoreboard to display a larger number.
Team Captain Garrett Poland has advised the troops new to El Paso that they are about to experience something special when they step out onto the ice through that huge balloon-like Rhino. They’ll get an adrenalin jolt from more than a thousand fans – numbers rarely seen in other WSHL barns. “The fans here are crazy. We love it. They bring us up when we are down; they keep us up. They are part of the reason players love to come to El Paso.”
Alternate captain and third-year man Tyler Benson’s non-verbal language said much to the media when he was asked about the fan support. His toothy grin sent a message stronger than any answer. It took him a few seconds to find the verbal superlative.
Of course the hockey program and the new training center also offer value into the player-development equation. But on opening weekend, it’s all about the love and intensity for the game. The emotions have also attracted many of the players’ parents to town – some for the first time.
Part of this weekend’s clamor will involve Boy Scouts from across the city. They’ll be out in droves for the Boy Scout Weekend, which features the Rhinos wearing uniforms featuring the scouting badge insignia. Poland noted that back when in Lincoln, Nebraska he was in the Cub and Boy Scout organizations, something that “taught team work and responsibility.”
In El Paso, ¡Estámos listos! (We're ready!) for mucho hockey.
Just bring the salsa. We’ll see you there!