Summer With Thorne

by Manny Brizuela

It doesn’t matter if you win the Stanley Cup, Clark Cup or the Thorne Cup, the most gratifying element comes with every Cup—memories persist from accomplishments that usurped a season’s worth of will.

Championships carry accumulating weight from all the stories and memories that develop the moment they are hoisted. For 25 years, teams in the WSHL have been after their Thorne Cup, but, most recently, the El Paso Rhinos have established memories from their summer with Thorne.

The Rhinos put forth a herculean 2017-18 season, but endured a tough start to the Thorne Cup Playoffs; that’s the first memory. The squad galvanized around backup goalie, Kayden Pickles, to take down the Ogden Mustangs in the finals; that’s the second memory. The city of El Paso was witness to a championship-culminating season; that’s the start of many more memories.

“It was definitely special to win it here at home,” Assistant Coach Vinny Bohn said. “As an organization, the fans really supported us all through out. When we lost the first two games everyone was a little nervous. When the final buzzer went off in the finals it was such a great feeling of relief. That entire game was an emotional rollercoaster with the back-and-forth hockey.”

It was the final buzzer of the WSHL season that signifies, for many, a subtle break from junior hockey related on goings. Yet, the Rhinos were relishing in everything that came before that buzzer. The Cup stayed in El Paso and before the team parted ways, the Thorne Cup never left their side. Thorne made an appearance with the Rhinos at a minor league baseball game and was quite the catch.

(Photo Via El Paso Rhinos Facebook) 

“As soon as we had the cup, everybody, and I mean all of our fans and sponsors, wanted a piece of it,” said Bohn. “It was like, ‘well where do we go first?’ First we went to a Triple-A baseball game and our guys got to be out on the field while Coach [Corey] Herman threw the first pitch. The baseball players are one good game from being in the major league and they wanted pictures with the cup.”   

It was lavish treatment for Thorne and the Rhinos as they got invited to the VIP section due to their enticing championship look while on the field.

The City Magazine, a well-known entity of El Paso, invited the Rhinos to showcase the cup at an event.

“We got a bunch of junior hockey players from all over the U.S. and we walk in there to all these people in suites and dresses. Here’s our guys in their jerseys, but everyone wanted to take a picture with the Thorne Cup. We had a line of about 60 people.”

Everybody knows the traditional major league ritual that goes with winning a championship. The team gets invited to the White House to meet the president.

 The Rhinos had an equivalent showing of their own when they got asked to visit El Paso City Hall to meet the city commissioners and grace them with the Thorne Cup. Needless to say, the city embraced the championship and the WSHL for giving it a title to rally around.

After paying a visit to every sponsor, the Thorne Cup spent time with the people who sacrificed it all to win it. The players were allowed to keep Thorne and take it wherever they wanted.

“The city really appreciated us winning it and I think that just goes back to us having the best fans and support,” said Bohn. “We let our players have the cup for a week. We told them ‘you earned it’ and ‘you deserve it.’ Some guys took it out to eat but they really went everywhere with it. They just wanted to show it off and enjoyed having this big trophy with them.”   

The window of bliss shortly evaporated into eagerness and fuel for the current season. The Rhinos are getting off to a good start placing sixth in the league with 18 points and an unblemished 6-0-0 record. Having swept the Dallas Snipers and 2017 Thorne Cup Champs, Wichita Jr. Thunder, the Rhinos enter their first major test against three-time Western Division champs, Long Beach Bombers, this week. The Bombers are skating in their 25th anniversary season. El Paso is second in the Mid-Western Division behind the Oklahoma City Blazers who have three more games played.

With the season in full swing, new memories are being sparked for the next champion that gets to claim the 25th anniversary title—More weight to add and more significance to place on the Thorne Cup.