Thunderbirds goaltender Chaffe makes future plans, signs NAHL tender with El Paso for ’21-22 season
Erik Chaffe is an Iowa native who has played between the pipes for the Colorado Thunderbirds since 2017.
Next season, Chaffe hopes to move up to the junior ranks and will have at least one solid option after recently signing an NAHL tender with the El Paso Rhinos, a team that will be joining the league for the 2021-22 season.
According to Chaffe, the opportunity with the Rhinos was “pretty abrupt.”
“I hadn’t had a lot of contact with Coach (Vinny) Bohn prior, but he had seen me play a lot last season and this season, as well as speaking to my coaches and advisor,” Chaffe said. “He reached out early this season to check in and introduce himself, and that’s when I figured out he had interest. He would check in after each game I played for a few weeks after that, and then offered the tender to me in early October.
“Something that piqued my interest about the team was their fan base and good history as an organization. They sell out almost every game, and the community and team have a lot of interaction with each other, which is something I want to be a part of. I want to give back to the community that supports me when I play the sport I love. It’s very exciting for me to get noticed. Coming from Iowa, I never really expected to play juniors, so to sign a tender with a NAHL team and have my name out there is an unreal feeling.”
Playing next season for a first-year organization is a situation that Chaffe says will be challenging, but one that will have benefits.
“I don’t know anyone on the team, but neither will most of the guys next season,” said Chaffe. “It’s going to be a fresh slate for everyone, and I think it could be a very good thing. Most guys will be new to the Rhinos and will have to learn the area together. I think it will be good for team bonding and chemistry.”
Growing up, Chaffe became enamored with junior hockey in his hometown of Cedar Rapids.
“I got started playing hockey because of my dad,” Chaffe said. “He grew up playing in Toronto, and he got me playing when I was really young, and I’ve loved it ever since. We had season tickets for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders around that time, with seats right behind the goalie, who was Alex Stalock at the time. He billeted with one of our family friends, so I would play knee hockey with him sometimes when we went to their house. He’s part of the reason I wanted to become a goalie.”
And once his talent level started to boom, Chaffe was noticed by Thunderbirds coach Dave Fromm.
“Dave asked me to come to the 14U tryouts in 2017, and I loved the organization and have stayed ever since,” said Chaffe. “The T-Birds were great for my development because every coach is experienced and knowledgeable. They know what it takes to move players on to the next level, and they know how to work with players to get there to where they want to be. Every player I’ve played with at the Thunderbirds has improved exponentially from the beginning of the season to the end. I can’t pick out a few coaches from T-Birds that have helped because everyone I’ve had contact with has made me better in one way or another.”
Now with an NAHL chance for 2021-22, Chaffe wants to keep climbing the hockey advancement ladder.
“My short-term goals for hockey are to play in juniors and my long-term goal is to eventually play professionally,” Chaffe said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to make a career out of playing hockey. For school, my goal is to receive a commitment to play NCAA Division I. I’ve always wanted to play college hockey, and it’s somewhere I could also pursue a career if hockey doesn’t work out for me.”
Off the ice, Chaffe has aspirations to earn a degree in computer science.
— Matt Mackinder
(Dec. 9, 2020)