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Maccabiah To Host Israel’s First-Ever Women’s Hockey Tournament
The USA women's hockey team for the Maccabiah Games, Pais Arena, Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

Maccabiah To Host Israel’s First-Ever Women’s Hockey Tournament

After yearslong struggle, teams from USA, Canada, and Israel set to face off in Jerusalem

Israel is set to host its first-ever women’s hockey tournament this week when teams from the United States, Canada, and Israel face off at the Maccabiah Games.

The inaugural tournament, which hits the ice on Wednesday, will see the teams from the three countries compete in a round-robin-style event at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem.

The 21st Maccabiah Games, often referred to as the Jewish Olympics, is one of the largest sporting events in the world and is taking place from July 12 to 26. The event features 10,000 athletes from 80 countries competing in over 40 sports.

At the Pais Arena, the 22 women that make up Team USA were hard at work preparing for their game against Team Israel on Wednesday.

Jodi Berris, a 43-year-old hockey player and coach who divides her time between Oregon and Utah, told The Media Line that the experience has so far been “amazing.”

“I’ve gotten to skate with amazing players from all over the United States,” Berris said. “I’m really excited to help elevate the game, grow the sport, and expose Israelis to women’s ice hockey.”

For these women, the journey to the Maccabiah Games was a long and arduous one.

In fact, it took nearly a decade of politicking and recruiting to get women’s hockey onto the ice in Israel.

The USA women’s hockey team for the Maccabiah Games practices at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

One of the people who fought to make it happen is Team USA’s Chelsey Goldberg, who plays in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and the Boston Blades.

In 2013 Goldberg watched her twin brother take part in the Maccabiah Games in Israel and decided that she wanted to be a part of it.

“I watched him in 2013 and 2017,” Goldberg told The Media Line. “I actually tried playing with the men and it wasn’t able to happen, so I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to get women to the Maccabi Games.’”

Goldberg, 29, is from Los Angeles, California, and has played hockey since she was 12.

So how does it feel to be part of Israel’s inaugural women’s hockey tournament?

“It’s pretty surreal,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s hit me yet, to be honest. This is my first time in Israel so it’s adding to the overall experience. I’m overwhelmed. That’s all I can say.”

According to Devra Schorr, who oversees and manages the team, the goal is to break the ice for women’s hockey in Israel.

“In the States and in Canada you have enough players to make a Maccabi team,” Schorr, co-chair of Ice Hockey for Maccabi USA, related. “In the other countries it’s not as easy and it was not a predominant sport here in Israel.”

Schorr also spearheaded efforts to include women’s hockey in the Games.

Although ice hockey is probably one of the last sports anyone would associate with the extreme heat and aridity of Israeli summers, the team is hopeful that the tournament will give the public a taste of the sport and encourage greater numbers to participate in the years to come.

“These girls are very special,” Schorr related. “They’re all here for the right reasons. They want to play the sport that they love and incorporate this into the first trip of women ice hockey players here in Israel, compete and bring the love of the sport to the country.”

The USA women’s hockey team for the Maccabiah Games practices at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

Women’s ice hockey has made in-roads in Israel in the past year.

The Israeli women’s team made its historic international debut in March at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championship in Belgrade, Serbia.

In addition, next year Israel will host the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship for Division III players, which is slated to start at the end of March in the northern Israeli city of Metula.

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