By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN /Â Community News Editor
When hockey player and coach Jacob Mars was preparing to spend a year as a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he was told there “wouldn’t be anything for him” in Israel in terms of hockey. But Mars, a 2008 Eden Prairie High School graduate, didn’t believe that.
After arriving in the Jewish state, Mars did an online search for “Israel hockey” and came across the Israel Recreational Hockey Association. He contacted the person in charge, Danny Spodek, and was invited to play the following Thursday night in Metulla, Israel’s northernmost city and home of the Canada Centre — the country’s only Olympic-size hockey rink.
- Hockey coach Jacob Mars is recruiting players from Minnesota to compete in the Israel Recreational Hockey Association tournament in Metulla in January 2010. (Photo: Courtesy of Jacob Mars)
“I hopped a ride with someone from Jerusalem and I played every other Thursday in these fun, recreational games up north,” Mars told the AJW. “I would usually leave Jerusalem at 1 p.m., I would be there for a 5:30 p.m. practice, have an hour break and then I’d go back the same night.”
Mars eventually became involved with the administrative side of the association and is now recruiting Minnesota hockey players to compete in the fourth annual International Israel Ice Hockey Tournament in Metulla Jan. 26-28, 2010. It is a non-checking event.
“This tournament is really incredible,” said Mars, whose team took the gold in the 2009 event. “It is designed for adult open players, but if you’re 16 or older, we’ll take you on Team Minnesota.”
The cost for the tournament is about $2,300 per player, and includes airfare, lodging, food and transportation for four to five days. Mars plans to hold a fundraiser to help defray some of the cost (those who play high school hockey may face eligibility restrictions and may not be able to have their entire trip paid; contact Mars for more information).
“We are in dire need of donations and so is the association,” Mars said. “The donations will help Israel hockey tenfold, that’s what it’s for.”
The Israel Recreational Hockey Association was formed by North American olim who live throughout Israel. Most of the tournament’s participants are from the United States, Canada and Europe.
“My goal, and the goal of the recreational association, is to get hockey much better in Israel and to get Israelis playing it,” Mars said. “We want kids who live in Israel to play hockey, learn hockey and to learn how to play it correctly.”
Mars has been coaching hockey since the age of 14 and is a level 4 USA Hockey Advanced coach. Currently, he is head coach of the Highland Park Bantam B1 team of the Highland Central Hockey Association in St. Paul.
For information about playing in the tournament or making a donation, contact Mars at 612-747-8869 or: firstname.lastname@example.org.