When El Paso’s Jaime Quirarte was accepted to Harvard, there was no way that the 6’0” – 195 lb. right wing was going to give up hockey. After all, he had been playing since second grade. Hockey was everything to him. He had tried plenty of other sports through the years – but it was always hockey that was the most fun for him. Quirarte grew up playing hockey in El Paso – not necessarily known as a “hotbed” of hockey. The organization was a lot smaller then and just like it is today – well coached and tight knit.
“It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and the friendships and relationships I made will last a lifetime,” said Quirarte.
A few of the relationships that Quirarte values the most are those that have developed with the Herman brothers – David, current El Paso Rhinos Jr. A Prep Team Head Coach Tom and current Rhinos GM and Head Coach Cory. When his teammates at Harvard get over their initial shock that there is ice in El Paso, they are interested to know how Jaime got involved in hockey to begin with. Quirarte attributes a lot of his success to being coached by each of the Herman brothers at some point during his time growing up in El Paso. He credits the Herman’s not only with his growth – but, also with the growth of hockey in El Paso in general.
“They have done a great job making hockey known within the El Paso community and making the sport accessible for all people,” said Quirarte.
During his time playing youth hockey in El Paso for the Hermans, Quirarte played for the Rhinos from the Mite team up to the Midget Majors – in high school he played for the Coronado T’Birds. Through the work of the Hermans and the work of the El Paso Hockey Association, Quirarte has seen the organization move from a temporary location – the county coliseum – to their own stadium, the Sierra Providence Events Center. Quirarte has also seen membership in the organization increase significantly with players from across the El Paso metropolitan area signing up to be part of the team – and the Rhinos reaping the benefits.
“Now the Rhinos have their own stadium along with a large following from the community. I have also noticed that the number of kids in the youth program has increased significantly,” said Quirarte, “El Paso is definitely getting a reputation for having a tremendous junior and youth program throughout the hockey community. The Rhinos won their first national championship last year and that really put El Paso on the map.”
As Quirarte has seen the growth of El Paso hockey and the growth of the El Paso Hockey Association, he has had time to reflect back on his growth in hockey. Quirarte has wondered what it would be like to grow up in a community where hockey was the main focus. Playing on a team full of players from states and countries with almost perpetual winter climates can do that. Although he may have wondered, Quirarte has never wished that he was from anywhere else. He knows the advantages that El Paso afforded — and affords — both he and other players who will grow up in the El Paso Hockey Association.
“Playing hockey in El Paso gives each individual a chance to really develop as a player because there is more one on one attention than you would find in larger hockey communities. Also because there is only one hockey organization in El Paso, the coaches and staff really want to see you succeed both on and off the ice,” said Quirarte.
– Jason Green