Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey

Respect

Blazers Respect El Paso

Every superhero needs a villain.

The Oklahoma City Blazers and El Paso Rhinos have established themselves as arguably the biggest rivals in the Western States Hockey League. From the first time these two teams faced each other last November it has been war. Oklahoma City was the new kid on the block and the El Paso Rhinos were the perennial powerhouse with league titles and national championship trophies to prove it. For years the Rhinos organization stormed through the WSHL competing in the finals or winning it all season after season. They did not have a divisional foe nor did they have anyone who could stop them.

In 2014 the Oklahoma City Blazers joined the WSHL and made an immediate statement bursting out to a league best start for a new franchise going 12-0. The 12th win of the Blazers inaugural season came in El Paso against the mighty Rhinos. From that point on it was clear what was about to take place going forward. After the upstart Blazers handed the Rhinos their first loss at home in nearly 2 years, a proud Rhinos organization would flex their muscles and send a message to Oklahoma City by pounding them first physically and then on the scoreboard the next two nights. That first series would see players from both sides beaten, injured and suspended.

A rivalry was born and the superhero had his villain. The two teams play each role perfectly for each other.

Now, after two years and 20 total games between the two, the rivalry is as strong and heated as ever. OKC holds a slight edge with a record of 11-8-1 all time versus El Paso’s 9-9-2.

It is part of WSHL rules that all teams must shake hands at the conclusion of any series. The El Paso Rhinos and Oklahoma City Blazers have turned it into tradition between the two organizations to not shake hands until the post season.

Until one has ended the others season as we have come to see.

It started with bad blood in that very first series between the two clubs and has now become a significant part of the rivalry. Something that sets these two teams, these two franchises and their rivalry apart from the rest.

However, there is respect.

Last season the Rhinos ended a cinderella type inaugural season for the Blazers by defeating them in a 3rd and deciding game in El Paso to win the Midwest Divison and advance them to the Conference Finals. The Blazers season was over. With tears in their eyes and broken hearts, the Blazers, after not doing so all year removed their gloves and made their way to center ice at the Sierra Providence Events Center to shake hands with the Rhinos.

Now, a year later, with fortunes reversed and the Blazers eliminating the Rhinos, a heartbroken El Paso club would make their way to center ice at the Blazers Ice Centre and shake hands with their rivals.

Respect. Class.

“When people think of the Western States Hockey League, they think of the El Paso Rhinos. They have set the bar for everyone else in this league. They are the franchise that everyone tries to compete with. Cory Herman and the Herman Family have done amazing things with not only the Rhinos but with hockey in general down in El Paso. We have the absolute, utmost respect for the El Paso Rhinos and their fans. They do it how it should be done and have been the class of the league for the last decade.” said Blazers President and Head Coach Tyler Fleck.

Although this season’s chapter has concluded the rivalry will remain.

“They’ll be back stronger than ever next season, no doubt about it. But no matter what, we will always respect them.”