Lone-Star Stick and Puck
The El Paso Rhinos of the NAHL were named the recipient of Kraft’s Hockeyville USA in August of 2020, bringing even more attention to what has become a well marinated state of hockey.
The Rhinos faithful were treated to numerous upgrades to their home at the El Paso County Coliseum including a repaired and and insulated roof as well as new lights in the concourse, on top of breezeways amongst many other upgrades. In a perfect exclamation point to being named Hockeyville USA, El Paso was treated to a pre-season matchup between the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes. (Stars took the easy win, 6-3. Then the bonus shootout, 2-0.)
While pre-season rounds up in the NHL, it is time to take note of the impact that the state of Texas has made in the sport of hockey from top to bottom in recent years. The most notable mark starts at the top with the Dallas Stars. Having moved from Minnesota it was a wild speculation that the sport would reach the success it has in over 25 years, but it has far exceeded the expectations set.
From a personal view in 2005 when graduating high-school (I’m 34. Did the math for you. I am only as old as I feel, therefore I am 62.) it was rare to hear of anyone in high-school playing hockey outside of the usual street hockey played outside your childhood home.
A junior varsity and varsity squad was built from eight different high-schools with graduating classes in the 400-500 range. Needless to say, it was a needle in the haystack type situation. Fast forward to today in 2021 and per TAHA Hockey not only is high-school hockey thriving, it is excelling on a national level.
High School Hockey in Texas has become Nationally recognized for its success. The past 5 seasons teams from Texas have won TWO National Championships, Frisco-2017 and Team Texas Girls in 2019. Texas teams have also captured TWO Bronze Medals, Plano West in 2018 and Frisco in 2019. Hockey is growing at all levels and that growth has begun to reach the high school ranks. A steady increase in High School Hockey participation is anticipated over the next few seasons and TAHA will be ready to serve the new influx of players. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time. – Keith Andresen President TAHA Section President
Most recently, Blake Coleman of Plano, Texas hoisted his second consecutive Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning before signing a a six-year, $29.4 million contract with the Calgary Flames. Factor in Seth and Caleb Jones of Arlington who now have found themselves , Texas and you begin to see a trend of tenured NHL’ers in the league from the Lone Star State.
Minor Leagues, Major Growth
Aside from the NHL, there is a Texas-Sized number of minor league teams ranging across all leagues. The Allen Americans of the ECHL along with the the Texas Stars of the AHL round out the upper tier franchises while the NAHL sports a whopping six franchises spanning across the entire state. The aforementioned El Paso Rhinos are joined by the brand new Amarillo Wranglers, the Corpus Christi IceRays, the Lone Star Brahmas , Odessa Jackalopes, and the Wichita Falls Warriors. (That is just the NAHL.) Oh and did I mention the NAHL HQ calls Dallas home?
I can’t talk about the minor league impact without mentioning the NA3HL and the collegiate club teams that are continuing to rise up with Baylor University recently bringing back their club team after a long hiatus.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the impact of Texas in hockey, please see the 2020 Winter Classic with 80,000+ fans screaming “STARS” during the National Anthem.
On the World Stage
The recent host of the U18 World Juniors showed up and showed out in Frisco, Texas, blowing the minds of all intendance as they showed the classic southern hospitality. It’s safe to say that Texas is implementing itself as an up and coming powerhouse is the world of hockey. Yee, and dare I say…haw!