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The national under-18 ice hockey team is on its way to North America after the Israel Ice Hockey Federation and a large and expanding group of volunteers in North America made arrangements for the squad to prepare for the 2006 world championships, which will be held in Israel for the first time.
The team will be accompanied by head coach Jean Perron, along with Canada Center coaches Boris Mindel and Eddy Ravniaga, who work with the team on a daily basis, in addition to IIHF chairman Alan Maislin and president Sergei Matin.
This initial trip will be a combination fund raiser and practice tour, on which it will visit and play three games in the United States, beginning with a match up in Miami, Florida, on October 16, followed by a controlled scrimmage on the 17th, a game in Philadelphia on the 20th, with the final one in New York on Saturday evening the 22nd.
They then fly to Montreal, Canada, for a game the following evening, followed by one in Ottawa on the 27th, with their sixth and final tuneup in Toronto on the 29th, prior to their return to Israel.
Michael Horowitz, 17, one of the outstanding players on the team, is making his fourth trip. â€œThe previous trips were really worthwhile, as it gave us an opportunity to play teams one after another, as we have to do during the world championships, as opposed to our own league games, which take place only once every two weeks,â€ he told The Jerusalem Post.
â€œWe also had the opportunity to play teams of a very high caliber, and it was very good competition for us, which gave us a better idea of what we would be up against [at the Worlds ]. It was also good for Jean Perron, who started to work with us last year full time, as he was better able to evaluate our performance and make line changes.â€
In between the games and scrimmages, the team will have an exhausting schedule, visiting a number of Hebrew day schools, local high schools and synagogues in the various cities.
â€œWe will be staying with different families,â€ Horowitz added, â€œas we have in the past, and it's a great feeling for the guys on the team. The families involved really put themselves out to make us feel at home, and are even in touch with us by e-mail, etc., before we leave here.
â€œIt gives us an opportunity to meet the people in different cities and see how they live as well, and this trip, I'll be going to two new cities, since I haven't been to Miami or Ottawa before.â€
â€œThe many families who are involved in the project are particularly excited about interacting with the teenagers and learning more about life in Israel,â€ said Matin, â€œand a lot of people are putting in a great deal of time and effort on our behalf... which is greatly appreciated.â€
As part of their relatively lengthy stay in Montreal, the team will take part in special clinics, including one run by former National Hockey League defenseman Gaston Gingras, and another with Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock.
One of the highlights of the tour is to attend a Canadiens-Flyers game on October 25.