There have been many losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, both big and large. In the grand scheme, a NHL preseason game between two teams being played at the winning rink of Kraft’s Hockeyville USA contest every season is a relatively minor one, all things considered.
When El Paso, Texas won the contest in 2020, there was some hope that the promised NHL preseason game could be hosted before the 2021 season. The virus seemed to be trending in the right direction and news of a vaccine being ready by the end of the year gave people some hope for a normal 2020-2021 season, albeit delayed from normal timing. After all, the Kraft Hockeyville USA winner was announced in the middle of the playoff bubble in August 2020.
While that did not come to pass, the arena still got the most important part of winning the contest: $150,000 for rink upgrades. With the arena hosting both a NAHL team as well as a North American 3 Hockey League team in the heat of the El Paso desert, the bulk of those monies was allocated to repairs and insulation of the roof structure. That should help the quality of the ice in the long term. The city also gets $10,000 in new equipment from the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund.
It’s pretty neat to see El Paso win the contest. The city was the only one in the final four that was further south than Kansas. Hockey in Texas is growing, and hosting a NHL preseason game in the west Texas town is just one more step forward for the Dallas Stars organization becoming the team of the state. “The selection of El Paso is a testament to the hard work of numerous individuals and organizations to help sustain and grow the game of hockey in our state,” Stars CEO Brad Alberts said.
The preseason game is just one part of the whole event, though. The El Paso Rhinos hockey team is hosting a canned food drive on September 29th to fill food pantries in the city and ensure people have access to food. The Stanley Cup will do a tour of the Sun City on September 30th, ending at a Kraft Hockeyville USA Community Celebration from 4 to 7 PM MT which will also feature NHL alumni, Rhinos players, and even the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. October 2nd the NHL teams’ mascots and Rhinos players will visit kids in hospitals in the area, and the entire thing culminates with the preseason game at El Paso County Events Center at 7 PM MT on Sunday, October 3rd.
For ticket information, keep an eye on the El Paso Rhinos Facebook page.
If you decide to make the road trip (used loosely, because El Paso is a minimum nine hour drive from the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas), definitely check out Chico’s Tacos (IYKYK) or commit to driving 30 minutes out into the desert to go to Cattleman’s Steakhouse, a restaurant on a large working ranch that offers amazing views of the desert. Definitely try to get a reservation around sunset - the view is very worth the drive. Since my dad lives in El Paso, I’m back home to visit often enough to have all the food recommendations you could ever need while you’re in town, so ask away!