Israeli sports fanatics go crazy for soccer and basketball, but ice hockey? It’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when conjuring up images of athletics in a country known for long, hot summers and short, rainy winters. That, however, is not deterring the Israeli Ice Hockey Federation from hosting the country’s first-ever World Jewish Hockey Championship. Scheduled to take place July 13-20 at the Canada Centre in Metulla, the tournament features teams from Canada, France, Israel and the United States. The athletes, all of whom are at least 18 years old, are elite-level players recruited from junior hockey leagues, universities and professional teams.
Last year, the Israeli Ice Hockey Federation planned a World Junior Championship, but the event was canceled because of the war against Hezbollah.
“It’s important to show the world and the International Ice Hockey Federation that Israel is not just about war and bloodshed, and that we can put together a world-class tournament,” said Alex Voihanski, general manager of Team Canada and chair of marketing and public relations for the Israeli Ice Hockey Federation. “We also want to show the world that there’s a lot of Jewish hockey talent.”
According to Voihanski, the organizers hope to hold similar tournaments every two to four years. The upcoming event will end with a final gold medal game, but the chances of the home team coming out on top seem pretty slim.
“It’s a coin toss between Canada and the United States,” Voihanski said.