The Rhinos and the El Paso Hockey Association are excited to announce that Rhino alum Hayden Kowalski will return to El Paso as the EPHA’s new Youth Hockey Director!
Colorado native Hayden Kowalski’s Rhino journey began at a player showcase in Las Vegas where he met Tom Herman. After hearing about the program, Kowalski and his mother decided to change flights from Denver to El Paso. “I was able to see the rink, the city, and got to meet some of the staff. After spending time in El Paso, I knew this is where I wanted to start my junior career.”
The hospitality of the Sun City’s residents and the unbeatable game atmosphere in Rhino Country heavily shaped Kowalski’s Rhino experience. “I had an unbelievable experience playing here and El Paso has become a second home for me. I had an amazing billet family that took me in, and I immediately became part of their family. We had great teams while I was playing for the Rhinos and were able to win the Thorne Cup in my second season. Ultimately, what made playing for the Rhinos special was Rhino Country. We always knew that Rhino Country would be loud and that our arena would be the toughest place to play in the league.” He played for the Rhinos in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
After leaving El Paso, he played another year of juniors in the Northeast and then went to Nichols College in Dudley, MA for a year. Kowalski decided to transfer to the University of Arizona where he graduated with a degree in Communications and Business Management. Following college, he coached at his high school alma mater for three seasons and won a State Championship during his tenure. “This,” he explains, “is when my love for coaching started to take shape.”
Both of Kowalski’s parents were teachers, so naturally, he has always been drawn to teaching and coaching. “As someone who has played for the Rhinos, I am excited to pass on what I learned while playing the game and help grow the sport in the city of El Paso. Hockey has taught me numerous life lessons that I have taken with me and I look forward to passing these on.”
Kowalski’s love for hockey, the city of El Paso, and the Rhinos organization were the factors in his decision to return to El Paso. “This city and team have always been special for me and helped me to grow into the person I am today. I wanted to come back and be able to give back to somewhere that has meant so much to me. I love the sport of hockey and want to be able to help grow hockey in El Paso off of the foundation that Cory and the Rhinos staff already has in place.”
As a former Rhino and the new youth hockey director, Kowalski has advice for little, developing Rhinos. “I have an autograph hanging in my room at my parent's house from one of my favorite players growing up. I received this my very first season playing hockey at 5 years old. Next to his signature he wrote the words "Always Have Fun." To this day, this is still hanging in my room at the house I grew up in. I believe this is the best advice for anyone at any level playing hockey. I believe hockey is the greatest sport you can play and ultimately if you have fun and work hard, hockey will give back to you in ways you never thought.”