Thursday, March 10, 2011
Israel brings a cold sport to a hot country
Hockey lovers drive for hours across Israel just to get a chance to skate on the ice.
Toronto it's not, but Metulla's Canada Centre provides a cool venue for immigrant and native Israelis thirsting for fast-paced fun on the ice.
A mere kilometer from the Lebanese border, Israel's only permanent regulation-size ice rink draws hockey players of all ages from throughout the country. It's not a sport normally associated with the Middle East, but for Israel's many Russian and Canadian immigrants, ice hockey is part of their culture. And they're willing to drive for hours to maintain it.
Since its start in 1989, the federation has started drawing native Israelis as well, and competing in an international division. Kids come for two-day mini-camps on the ice, and senior leagues - with players from 16 to 60 -- meet weekly. When they're not at the Metulla rink, most players must practice on rollerblades for lack of an appropriate venue.
Plans are afoot to build a second Olympic-size rink in central Israel. For now, however, the diehards are happy to trek up north to the Canada Centre for a bracing breath of cold air and an action-packed, competitive workout.