Nic Gualano

Nick Gualano

What years were you with the Rhinos?

I was with the Rhinos from February of 2009 through the 2009-2010 season.
How did you become a Rhino?

Well I’m not going to lie when I say it was one of the most pivotal points in my hockey career when I decided to join the Rhinos. I was traded from the Dubuque Thunderbirds and I wasn’t sure what my next move was going to be. Andrew Ketterer, who was playing for the Rhinos called me after he found out I was released from Dubuque. He was a former Thunderbird himself and told me I should give Coach Herman a call, so I did. Three days later I was on a flight to El Paso having no idea what to expect. I flew in on a Sunday just in time to make it to the rink and play my first game against the Colorado Outlaws. The airline lost my sticks, so I had to play my first game with someone else’s twigs, and I also wore a half shield for the first time, thanks to Dave Herman. If it wasn’t for the Rhinos accepting me with open arms, who knows where I would be right now.

Go back to when you were here. Describe the season or seasons in which you were here, how you felt, and what you experienced.
The time I was in El Paso was one of the best experiences of my life. I even tattooed a Rhino on my leg just to keep those memories with me for the rest of my life. I played in the last 16 games of the 09’ season and we didn’t lose a game until we played the Phoenix Polar Bears in the Thorne Cup Finals. Even though we lost, we still had the chance to experience nationals, and a 36-hour bus ride to Boston. In my exit meeting with Coach Herman, I told him there was no doubt I would be back next season.

My final year as a junior hockey player will forever be one of my most memorable years. I lived in an apartment with Josh Deloach, Andrew Ketterer and John Redmond. There is no doubt this team had the most characters I have ever seen. We had a great core moving into the season along with the additions of players such as Redmond, Copley, Henne, Poland, Avegard, Posillico, Vallier, Bohn, Dizgun and Wallace. Coach Herm built us to be relentless hockey players. His practices were long and tough. When it came time for games we knew what needed to be done. Losing in the three game series to Boulder in the conference finals was literally one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life. I bawled like a little baby after that game. It not only marked the end of my junior hockey career, but also my career in El Paso. 

What is your most memorable moment as a Rhino?
Moment? There are too many memorable moments to just mention one. It could be anything from our five-goal comeback in Tulsa, Murray Bates’ pre-playoff speech, running sprints in the quad at Boulder, Colorado because John Redmond laughed on the bus after a loss, going through the most gruesome three and a half hour bag skate of my life, countless Tuesdays with the boys, taking the rookie ladies out to dinner at Hooters, the bench radio talk show I had with Austin Balko called ABNG 27.24, Boy Scout night, watching Billy Krueger and Rick Labounty fight in my first practice as a Rhino, getting a blowup doll from Ben Vidro for secret Santa, Trevor Erickson’s pre game words of wisdom, Knuth getting his ear shot off by Balko, starting lineups skating through a giant Rhino head, the list goes on and on. But if I absolutely had to pick one, it would be the end of the year party at Coach Herman’s house. We stayed up all night swapping some of the most hysterical stories I’ve ever heard, and then ended with Coach giving his credit card to Frankie Posillico, telling him to run to the grocery store, and then proceeding to make breakfast for everyone.

What is one funny story about your time as a Rhino?

One of my favorites was when we made the rookies dress up like little girls and escort us to the local Hooters. Watching all of them dance in front of the entire restaurant in wigs and little skirts was a sight to see. Disturbing, but oh so beautiful. 

Looking back, what do you miss the most?

I miss the everyday life we all lived together. We got up at 5:30 every morning to go to the rink and practice until Coach decided we were done. We would go to workout after that and have the rest of the day to do whatever the heck we wanted. Some of the time it involved volunteering our time to help from anything like coaching a three year old soccer team in Fort Bliss to reading children’s stories to school kids. I miss the treatment we received, the coaches, Oscar making me photogenic, Duke’s game announcing, Hissam’s post-game interviews, the best fans in the league, home games, bus trips, Rudy’s moist brisket, and again the list goes on.

Did you continue to play after your time with the Rhinos? And if so, where? Did you receive any awards?

I went on to play for Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota where I am currently still playing. This year will mark my final year as a collegiate hockey player. 

Is there anyone you that still keep in touch with in El Paso?
Of course I still keep in touch with guys that I played with in El Paso. I go to school with Balko, Gorup, Ridgedell, and Copley, and I have lived with Erickson and Ketterer for the past three years. Every summer we try to get as many guys together as we can for a weekend. I hope some day we can all go back to El Paso for a weekend and relive some wonderful memories.

Where are you and what do you do now?

I am currently going into my senior year at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. I am double majoring in Management and Marketing. I currently have no plans for next year, but I hope to have that figured out sometime soon.