North Americans Bring Hockey Skills to Israeli Children
Eight American and Canadian hockey experts, mostly non-Jews, have devoted their summer to bringing their love of the game to Israel
A group of Canadian and American players and coaches recently traveled to Israel to share their hockey expertise with the small, but growing, community of hockey enthusiasts in the country.
The group, reports the JTA, was comprised of three teenage Washingtonian players and their coaches, Canadians Laurie Boschman (former NHL veteran) and Tessa Bonhomme (a member of the 2010 gold medal winning women’s hockey team), and two young Canadian goalies.
Based out of the Canada Centre ice rink in Metulla, these Canadian and American hockey experts spent eleven days in Israel teaching fundamental skills to 50 eager Israeli kids and several aspiring coaches.
“These are people who are quite passionate about hockey,” said Boschman. “That’s really fun to see in a non-traditional hockey market.”
The trip to Metulla was inspired by the hockey camps that ran there nearly two decades ago by the late Roger Neilson, a Canadian NHL coach who is credited with starting the hockey community in Israel.
“Our plan from day one was to start up the camp the way Roger Neilson used to do--bring kids here from North America from different backgrounds,” said Mitch Miller, from Ottawa, who helped organize this summer’s trip, and plans to make it an annual event.
Miller, and fellow Canadian Zach Springer, were the only Jewish members of the group. Of the five teenagers who made the trip, only one, Drew Koike, had travelled overseas before.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’ve had a great time,” said Koike during his time in Israel. “The idea of hockey in Israel sounded like two cool things put together.”
Boschman had previously run hockey camps for kids in several European countries while working with a Christian group, Hockey Ministries International, but never in Israel.
At the training camp in Metulla, Boschman and Bonhomme led morning and afternoon practices as well as midday training sessions while Springer and his friend, Jack More (both 15 from Kingston, Ontario), took over teaching their young Israeli friends goaltending skills.
Washington coach, Ty Newberry, instructed two dozen Israeli coaches to become certified by U.S.A. Hockey, an organization that promotes youth hockey internationally. His aim was to train the coaches to teach the fundamentals of hockey in a standardized way, with the goal of eventually developing an Israeli certification program for coaches.
When asked if the ongoing conflicts in the Gaza region had been an issue for the program, Newberry stated: “We’re completely safe, enjoying the country, the friendships and the incredible food.”
Miller has said that this year’s experience in Metulla was “a great first step” in bringing hockey to the forefront of Israeli athletics, and plans to expand the program next year.
“They’re not saying ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ but ‘Next year in Metulla!’” said Miller.