Revamped RGHSHL helping high school game grow in New Mexico
When the New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League was renamed the Rio Grande High School Hockey League (RGHSHL) this season to also include teams from Colorado and Texas, it was but another step in growing the game of hockey in a non-traditional area.
RGHSHL commissioner Kevin Brake said the league is immensely underrated.
“We certainly do not live in a hockey hotbed as compared to other areas of the country, but I think we have a lot more talent in our league than most would expect,” Brake said. “We routinely send players to AAA programs and junior programs.
“I would imagine that it may come as a surprise to most hockey fans that a league centered in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado has three teams that play out of outdoor rinks and two of them are in New Mexico.”
Brake also explained how the high school game can keep growing in New Mexico at the boys and girls levels.
“The key to a great high school league is understanding that you can only produce minor effects when you are addressing issues at that age group,” said Brake. “The quality of a high school program is more of a symptom of how well a program has recruited and retained players at the younger levels. Across our programs, there has been a big focus on coming up with creative ways to get younger players involved and doing what we can to instill a love of the game so that the players will continue playing through high school and into adulthood.
“Our programs have been working on a litany of ideas such as bringing the high school players and coaches to the elementary schools to show kids, that may not be exposed to hockey otherwise, what a great game we play or coming up with cost-saving measures that will make hockey financially competitive with other sports that are available to kids in our area.
“We all love this sport and finding new ways to pass that love along to the next generation is the most important thing we can do as coaches.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Feb. 6, 2019)