June 18, 2024
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June 18, 2024
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Breaking the Ice for Women’s Ice Hockey at the Maccabiah Games

You know you are a great player. You have been playing ice hockey with the boys for years but you are being told, “Girls are not allowed to play on Maccabi USA’s men’s ice hockey team.” What do you do now? Obviously, you make women’s ice hockey a sport at the Maccabiah Games.

Chelsey Goldberg discovered ice hockey when the warm Los Angeles summer sun made it too hot to play roller hockey outside. Goldberg, her twin brother and their roller hockey crew joined a local recreational ice hockey league. The coach quickly realized that Goldberg had immense ice hockey promise and with a little encouragement, Goldberg shifted her focus away from the typical California sports of lacrosse, soccer and swimming, to the much less popular ice hockey.

Goldberg earned the respect of her male teammates and was appointed the captain of their team. On the ice, captains are targeted to be checked more by the other team. Goldberg did not want to put herself in a position to get hit twice as much and twice as hard because she was the captain and a female, “I didn’t want to give them that advantage over me,” Goldberg said, so she decided to hide her blond ponytail in her helmet.

Upon realizing that playing in a men’s league would make recruitment to a college program difficult, Goldberg took her hair out of her helmet and began playing in a women’s league.

“The biggest difference between men’s and women’s ice hockey is the hitting. There is no checking in women’s hockey. At the professional level, refs will let us rub a player out or hit a player along the boards. Girls still get feisty so you’ll still see some hits and some fights, but it’s not allowed so you’ll get a penalty,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg realized that she had an edge over most of the other female ice hockey players. “I credit a lot of my success and where I am today to playing boy’s hockey because guys are naturally bigger, stronger and faster so I had to really step my game up to be able to play on their level,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg played ice hockey for four years at Northeastern University, and upon her graduation, she joined the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey League (CWIHL). Although she was a professional athlete, Goldberg worked full-time in commercial real estate to make ends meet. Despite the assumption that professional athletes take in the big bucks, CWIHL players had to hold full-time jobs to earn a living wage, making it difficult to find time to properly train and travel to games.

In 2019, the players of the CWIHL went on strike and traded in their skates for membership to the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA) which is fighting for a full-time salary, medical benefits, team sponsorships and television rights for their games. The CWIHL players hope to lace up their skates again for a 2023 season with teams in both Canada and America, and receive a full-time salary, housing, sponsorships and a meal stipend.

In 2013, when her twin brother was asked to join Maccabi USA’s men’s ice hockey team, Goldberg thought, “It’s so cool to represent both Team USA and our Jewish heritage. I want to do it too.” But her request was denied.

“Being told not only motivated me more,” Goldberg said. Jumping in head first, she went to work to induct women’s ice hockey into the Maccabiah Games. It took eight years of hard work, research and keeping lists of Jewish female ice hockey players through social media stalking and word of mouth. Goldberg’s devotion and hard work paid off and women’s ice hockey will be played for the first time at this summer’s Maccabiah Games in Israel. “It’s been a crazy, very long project. It’s unreal that it’s finally happening. I didn’t know it would be the 2022 games that we’d be competing in, but I’m excited,” Goldberg said.

“I feel getting women’s ice hockey to the Maccabiah and what the PWHPA is fighting for are very similar. More has to be done to push women’s ice hockey forward to show that ice hockey can and should be for everyone.”

While waiting for the Boston Blades to start skating again, Goldberg was initiated into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and has been preparing for this summer’s Maccabiah games by playing and training at the practice facility of her favorite NHL team, the LA Kings.

Goldberg is amazed that a very typical winter sport is being played in a desert. “My next goal would be to get more teams to participate in the next Maccabiah Games and also to help Israel develop their women’s ice hockey team so they can compete internationally,” Goldberg said.

This will be Goldberg’s first time in Israel and she is looking forward to experiencing the historical and cultural part of her Judaism. “Being Jewish was a very big part of my upbringing. Our Jewish heritage is very strong but I chose to focus on hockey and I’ve been the only Jewish player on my teams.”

Although Goldberg does not know what to expect from the games, she is looking forward to “showing everyone, but especially the guys, that ice hockey is not only their sport. It’s our sport too.”

Danielle grew up in Teaneck, and made aliyah to Jerusalem following her graduation from Rutgers University. Danielle teaches English at colleges in Jerusalem and has been involved in both formal and informal education for a variety of organizations. Danielle believes that important life skills and lessons are often not ones learned in the classroom, but can be learned from team sports.

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