Just Chirp’n 1

Just Chirp’n #1 2010-2011

September 1, 2010

By Michael Hissam

“BANG!”

It’s the sound that tells you hockey season has returned to El Paso, despite the 100-degree blowtorch outside.

Hang around hockey rinks for more than a half century and the sound of a puck smacking the boards says in no uncertain terms that hockey has returned – even in the desert.

At last weekend’s alumni game, the sound of the shot off the boards coupled with the shaving sound from skates on the ice and grunts, groans and expletives from players in a 100-minute non-stop contest served as proof points.

That was the fun part.  Now it is time for final camp prior to the season’s opener in Boulder on Sept. 24. Nearly a score of new players get to learn personally the meaning of Coach Cory Herman’s favorite elongated phrase:  “Hard work!”  They’ll also hear the bench boss’s whistle in whatever key reverberates off the glass.  The half dozen returning veterans don’t need a refresher course.

Rhino alum Marcus Wilhite broke out grinning, yet recoiled a bit at the phrase one more time.  “The new guys, the rookies need to make sure that every day they come to camp they need to come prepared to play hard.  Every day they need to give it their all and their best, no matter what.  This is what the coach expects — every day.”

Wilhite, now skating for Arizona State’s club team, added, “The way the practices are run is that you become a better hockey player. You\’ll skate faster and harder than you ever have.  You\’ll do more passing; you\’ll become quick. Everything will get fine tuned because everyone is coming in playing harder every day.

“Coming down here was the best thing I ever did in hockey.  I learned here that hockey is a game you cannot play individually or with two guys. You got to play with the team.  Everyone has to get going. Everyone has to show up.  What I learned here is the team thing.”

Where Wilhite left off in scoring during his time in El Paso, Nick Gorup picked it up.  Gorup, from Omaha expressed excitement about one more skate at the Paisano Avenue barn.  “It was awesome to be back in El Paso, to meet the new guys and the old friends who supported us. My advice to the new guys is simple.  Do whatever the coach tells you to do. When the coach tells you to do something you do it and good things will happen.  Guys like Wilhite and I listened to the coach and we got places.

In Gorup’s case it was a ride to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the next step to the hockey collegiate ladder.

When asked about skills the new guys will develop, Gorup’s answer came as fast as his slap shot:  “If you are a goal-scorer type player, the coach will turn you into a more physical player.  He wants you to finish your checks and block shots.  He does not want a guy who goes end-to-end all the time but does not back check. My advice to the new guys is to be an all around player and develop everything you can.”

He reflected on the El Paso experience, building from what so many transplants have said.  “Coming down the first year from the Midwest, I had no idea of what to expect.  I would not trade anything in the world.  It was the best time of my life.   I am so happy I was part of the beginnings in El Paso.”

Gorup added one off-ice piece of advice for any of Herman’s new recruits who are just about to get their real- life geography lesson.  “Long bus rides?  I loved it.  The bus is unbelievable; it gave us time to bond together away from the rink.”

Nos vemos.  mjhissam@sbcglobal.net