In 2006, retired former El Paso Buzzards professional hockey player Cory Herman founded the El Paso Rhinos. The Buzzards had ceased operations in 2003 and Herman wanted to bring ice hockey back to the city of El Paso. With the support of his family and former Buzzard patrons, the team began their first season as a Junior B team in the Western States Hockey League in 2005-06. The Rhinos played 14 seasons in the WSHL, and in that time amassed one national title, eleven division titles, four national tournament berths, four Thorne Cup championships, and a silver medal in the national tournament.
Throughout over a decade of hockey, the Rhinos have celebrated the NCAA commitments of over a hundred players, the signing of former Rhino goaltender Adam Vay with the Minnesota Wild, and raising tens of thousands of dollars for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. In 2019, El Paso made history by being the first junior hockey team to play a national team from another country. The Rhinos vs. Mexican National Team series, which also honored the lives of the American, Mexican, and German nationals who lost their lives in El Paso’s tragedy on August 3, received coverage from NHL.com (1) (2) (3) and NBC Sports. Rhino Country, boasting sold out crowds full of raucous and passionate fans despite being an untraditional hockey market, was also featured on NBC Sports for Hockey Day in America in February 2020.
In June 2020, the Rhinos announced that they would play in the NA3HL for the 2020-21 season and that the following season, 2021-22, they would organize two teams: one in the NA3HL and one in the NAHL.
In August of the same year, the Sun City won the national sweepstakes competition and received $150,000 for rink renovations. The award money helped repair the roof and better insulate the building so that the ice can withstand the West Texas heat. Rink lighting and complete renovations of the restrooms were also made possible by the Kraft Hockeyville prize funds.
The Rhino organization has a well-known philanthropic commitment to the Sun City and its surrounding community. Each year, players typically volunteer over 8000 hours and make a minimum of 200 local appearances. Players’ presence in local elementary and middle schools through the Skate Mates Educational Program and their willingness to volunteer with youth hockey has helped grow the game of hockey in El Paso. The partnerships with local non-profit organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girls, and the El Paso Children’s Hospital helps the Rhino franchise give back to the community that has been so supportive of El Paso’s only ice hockey team.