Destiny. Fate. Whatever people want to call it, the Oklahoma City Blazers and the El Paso Rhinos have been involved what could arguably be one of the biggest rivalries in US junior hockey. From the very beginning, these two teams were on track to play in some of the biggest games they’ve ever been a part of.
Coming onto the scene in 2014, the Blazers were the upstart team in the Western States Hockey League, jumping out to an 11-0 start on their inaugural season as they headed to El Paso, Texas to take on the Rhinos for the first time in franchise history. To this point, the Rhinos had been dominating their division and the WSHL, winning title after title over the previous eight seasons. But it was that first meeting between OKC and El Paso that would show that they were going to have to fight even harder for those going forward.
November 21st, 2014, it was the Blazers that put an end to the Rhinos winning streak at home that spanned nearly two years. It was the Blazers that handed the Rhinos their first regulation loss of the 2014 calendar year. It was the Blazers that fired the first shot.
The paths have crossed many times over the last six seasons, many in the playoffs. In the 2015-16 playoffs, the Blazers eliminated the Rhinos en route to OKC’s first Division Championship, while both teams have met and traded wins in the previous two Thorne Cup Final tournaments.
As the Blazers announced they would be moving to the North American 3 Hockey League beginning with the 2020-21 season, it seemed that the rivalry would be put on pause. However, that was not to be as it was announced that the Rhinos would also be joining the NA3HL as part of the Southern Division for 2020-21, ensuring that the rivalry would continue.
Destiny. Fate. Whatever you want to call it, these two teams will meet once again.