Hockey is back in Maccabiah. All three divisions (Juniors, Open, and Masters) have played most of their preliminary round robin games. There is something that separates hockey from all the other sports here at Maccabiah, and it’s not just the fact that we alone are in Metula, two hours away from all the other teams and competitions.
Nobody would ever call LeBron James “Jamesey,” or Aly Raisman “Raisy.” However, in the NHL, Maccabiah, and in hockey rinks everywhere, such nicknames are ubiquitous. Typically, one adds a Y to all or part of a hockey player’s name. For example, Sharf becomes Sharfy, Oliver becomes Olly, and Finberg becomes Finny. Other times, the boys get a little more creative. On our Juniors team alone, we have a Donkey, Lizard, and a Jetski. The first two are self-explanatory, but Jetski is a creative combination of Jewish and Gretzky (the greatest hockey player of all time) used to describe a teammate of mine who is the only hockey playing Hebrew at his school in the US. Calling each other nicknames adds to the brotherly atmosphere felt in locker rooms
Another example of the uniqueness of hockey occurred a few days ago at the Metula rink. My team had just had a convincing victory over the Israeli team. Many of our parents and family members came onto the ice for a photo opportunity. We assembled together to take a Team USA picture, but before the flashes could go off, some of the Israelis we had just beaten skated over and joined in our team photo. No one protested, in fact just the opposite. We welcomed them because we are all brothers.
This spontaneous act by our Israeli opponents depicts how hockey is different from most other sports. During games we throw vicious body checks but afterwards we always shake hands.