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When Alan Maislin became chairman of the Israel Ice Hockey Federation in 2003, his goal was to make Israeli hockey strong enough to compete with any other country in the world, and to have teams in the Winter Olympics.
With this in mind, he initiated a grass-roots program in North America, which relies on a dedicated group of volunteers who share Maislin's vision, and are actively working to help develop the hockey program in Israel to its maximum potential.
Dr. Harry Harcsztark of New Jersey is one such individual, who has spent the past year planning and organizing the inaugural international benefit ice hockey event, under the auspices of The Friends of Israel Ice Hockey Federation, that is now being held at the Canada Center in Metulla.
There was a palpable air of excitement as the teams took to the ice for the opening match on Tuesday morning, when the US beat the Canadian squad 8-4.
The evening games saw the first Israeli team, consisting of players from the senior national league, waltz over an outgunned Canadian team by a score of 11-2.
The second game was more evenly matched, with the second Israeli squad, consisting of players from the Thursday night league absorbing a tight 4-3 loss to the American team.
Wednesday morning saw the Canadian team getting a measure of revenge on the American team with a 9-7 win.
The tournament ends on Thursday.
"We have already begun to plan for next year's tournament," Harcsztark told The Jerusalem Post, "since we've been getting a lot of inquiries from all over North America, as far west as California in the US, and Winnipeg and Edmonton in Canada, and even from Prague in the Czech Republic..."
About 20 players packed their enormous bags of gear, each one weighing better than 25 kilograms, and shlepped them thousands of kilometers just to participate.
Craig Guttman from Toronto had to be in China for business, but arranged his schedule to return via Israel in order to participate.
Jack Rotem from Teaneck, New Jersey, came with his son Ariel, in the net for the US squad, and Daniel Karp.
Dr. Esther Silver from Toronto made a personal donation of six full bags of hockey gear worth thousands of dollars, which she brought in person, in order to help outfit the new women's team.
Maislin wasn't able to take part in this event, but told the Post from Montreal that "back in 2003, I made a commitment to the Canada Center that there would be dedicated people coming to Israel to play. It took two years, and this is the opening event.
"I predict that we will at least have a women's team at the 2010 Winter Olympics."
Anyone interested in supporting Israel's hockey program can e-mail IsraelHockey@yahoo.com. Please submit items for 'Games We Play' via e-mail to email@example.com
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