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Jeff Marek's hockey teaching adventure in Israel

Aug 12, 2010, 1:00 PM EST

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It seems like going to Northern Ireland is a big enough hockey adventure, but what about … Israel?

Hockey Night in Canada correspondent Jeff Marek is teaching hockey to kids who never get the chance to play on ice and the experience seems nothing short of fascinating. Here is a brief snippet of what it’s like, although I highly recommend that you read the whole thing.

For many of these kids hockey starts outdoors, like it does with Canadians, but not on frozen rinks, but roller rinks. Or backyards, or anywhere that has any significant stretch of pavement. Much of the gear is roller hockey equipment as well. Outdoors with wheels – not blades – on their feet, these kids fall in love with the game of hockey and all dream of playing it on the ice but that’s tough in Israel. You see, Israel only has one rink.

[snip]

We do drills. A lot of drills.

And much of it involves getting the roller hockey out of the ice hockey player.

You’ve seen roller puck before, right? Lots of wide turns and peeling away from the play. And on the first day of camp during either pylon drills or controlled scrimmage the turns were wide. I’ve seen ships buttonhook tighter. Six days into the camp and we’re getting there. The kids are learning how to use both their inside and outside edges and are learning a lesson that makes your legs ache but is a reality of playing hockey: when you lose the puck, wide turns don’t cut it. Stops and starts, dude. That’s how we roll (pardon the pun).

Stories like these make it sad to hear that frozen rinks might be in decline. Marek describes hockey hopefuls who only seem to “groan” when they must give way for public skates, rather than complaining about doing more Herbies.

Hockey won’t likely build a stronghold in fish-out-of-water locations like Mexico or Israel, but it’s awesome to see people like Marek try to grow the sport in non-traditional locations. After all, you’ve heard those NHL Network ads; hockey is for everyone.

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