Kraft Hockeyville USA, in its sixth year, awards one winning community a once-in-a-lifetime experience for hockey fans. El Paso, Texas, and the El Paso County Events Center were selected as the winner after an online vote in 2020, but festivities were not held due to COVID-19. The rink received $150,000 in upgrades, and there will be events and player appearances prior to the Dallas Stars hosting the Arizona Coyotes in a preseason game at El Paso County Events Center on Sunday (9 p.m. ET; NHL.com). NHL.com staff writers William Douglas and David Satriano are in El Paso to provide all the sights, sounds, highlights and news leading up to the game:
Community food drive
The community activities began when Kraft Hockeyville USA Cares hosted a food drive for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.
From Sept. 15-28, the El Paso Rhinos, who have junior teams in the North American Hockey League and the El Paso Hockey Association, collected canned goods and nonperishable food donations, which were dropped off at the El Paso County Events Center. Kraft Heinz also supplemented the donation to ensure more families in the greater El Paso area have food.
“Giving back to the community is a huge part of being a Rhino, and being able to help in any way is a great reminder that we are a part of a wonderful community that has done so much for our organization,” El Paso forward Jordan Zelenak said.
The Rhinos play at El Paso County Events Center, which was refurbished with the $150,000 prize money for winning Kraft Hockeyville USA. It went toward expanding the entryways, replacing the lights with energy-efficient LED lighting, renovating the restrooms and replacing the roof.
But Wednesday was more about helping the community than enjoying the updated arena.
“The food drive was a great opportunity for our organization to give back to the community that has been supporting hockey in El Paso since the 1990s,” El Paso forward Alex Krause said. “It was truly a heartwarming experience.”
On Thursday, a community celebration at San Jacinto Plaza will include the Stanley Cup, alumni from the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes, and a mariachi band.