Students hope to build new organization
PAUL REYNOSO | March 12, 2013 THE PROSPECTOR
The team practices at the Sierra Providence Events Center
Tuesday or Thursday evenings.
Michele Torres / The Prospector
Hockey may not be a hot commodity in El Paso these days, but on a Tuesday or Thursday evening at the Sierra Providence Events Center, you will find a group of UTEP students playing the game they love.
"Mario and I started this thing a couple of years ago. It's been tough, but it's going," Villegas said.
Villegas said that the intent in creating the hockey club was to raise interest in the sport around UTEP and in the city. He said that in order for UTEP Ice Hockey to grow at UTEP, the club has to be officially sanctioned by the school.
According to Cesar Hernandez Jr., recreational sports specialist at UTEP, the club has to be a student organization for more than a year to receive approval by the Recreational Sports Department.
"What we do is get some preference from Student Development, and after that we make the decision if they comply with all our requests that we ask, then we pretty much can work with that," Hernandez said.
Currently, the UTEP Ice Hockey Club is not officially sanctioned as a club at the university. Hernandez said that the proper paperwork needs to be turned in before they can proceed.
Villegas said the club is currently working on meeting with an on-campus advisor to help the club organize to become an official club. Then they could use the UTEP Miners' name and not in a non-monetary way. "We're in the process of getting a new president, getting new everything," Villegas said. "I just want to establish everyone in their positions and from there we'll take it and start the process."
The hockey team is currently comprised of 10 to 13 players, all of whom are UTEP students or faculty and staff. Anyone that wishes to participate in the hockey club must be currently enrolled in school and present a proper UTEP ID.
The club competes mostly against teams from the El Paso Hockey Association, which plays Mondays through Thursdays. According to Villegas, this competition is mostly just for fun, but there are plans for the club to become part of an official competitive league when the club becomes sanctioned by UTEP.
"We want to be part of the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) Division II. So that's another goal, that's like our mid-term goal," Villegas said. "So, hopefully, within a year down the road we'll be able to do that."
The ACHA has been around since 1991. It functions mainly to support quality, unity and regulation of intercollegiate hockey programs in the United States. The ACHA is made up of five divisions (Men's Division 1, 2 and 3; Women's Division 1 and 2). The organization is made up of more than 400 teams from across the nation.
Center Edgar Reyes, a junior metallurgical engineering major, said he was motivated to join UTEP's first hockey club because of his experiences in the sport growing up.
"I've been playing pretty much my whole life since I was a child," Reyes said. "This is my hobby. This is what I like to do on my free time."
Reyes, who has been with the club since the beginning, said that players usually bring their own equipment to use during practice and play. He also said he would like to see the hockey club get more followers and exposure through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Practice and training for UTEP's hockey club is primarily overseen by coach Norm Thilits, a Canadian currently the El Paso Rhinos' trainer. When coach Thilits is not around to train UTEP's hockey club, players from the El Paso Rhinos will help the team members during their practices. Reyes said the team's practices usually consist of skating, passing and working as a team. Thilits, who has had more than 45 years of experience in coaching and playing hockey, said that UTEP's hockey club could help further promote the sport in a city that is not known as a hotbed for hockey.
Anyone interested may reach the organization via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Reynoso may be reached at email@example.com.