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Israel Elite Hockey League Doubles In Size Despite Covid Challenges

Founder Tal Averny expands league to 8 teams, attracting over 60 international players

That’s the approach taken by Tal Averny, founder of the Israel Elite Hockey League.

It’s hard to argue with this. The league started two years ago with four teams. Two seasons later, it’s already doubled in size. This despite the inauspicious start of debuting an ice hockey league in Israel during Covid.

“We started with four teams playing at the Holon Ice Peaks. On the half sheet ice, it wasn’t traditional hockey but rather 4 on 4. Still, it was exciting,” Averny said.

The original four teams were the Jerusalem Capitals, Holon Vipers, HC Tel Aviv and Bat Yam Dolphins

That first season started with 12 imports keen to keep playing hockey during the summer, when all organized hockey in Europe is on a break.

For this third season, word of mouth helped expand the league to more than 60 imports and another two teams. The newer four teams are Herzliya Pioneers, U20 Academy Team, Haifa and Netanya.

Not only this, but Averny was able to get Sports 5 to broadcast the games.

For those on the outside looking in at the NHL or one of the top European professional leagues, the Israeli league provides the invaluable opportunity for those who need minutes after not playing a lot for their regular team and those who are looking to stay match fit.

New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Pytlik (79) and New Jersey Devils defenseman Victor Hurtig (84) batted during New Jersey Devils Development Camp on July 14, 2023, at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. We started with four teams playing at the Holon Ice Peaks. On the half sheet ice, it wasn’t traditional hockey but rather 4 on 4. Still, it was exciting. PHOTO BY ANDREW MORDZYNSKI/GETTY IMAGES

Some of the players in the league currently play in England and Finland.

One such player is Michael Gennello, captain of HC Tel Aviv. Originally from East Windsor, N.J., Gennello has been playing in Finland.

Gennello has been playing in the league since the start. “One thing that has really stood out is how far the local Israeli players have come over the years. The sport is most definitely growing here and the local players are taking tremendous strides.”

It’s been a real thrill for Gennello to play in a league where he isn’t the only Jewish player.

Israeli Yuval Halpert, who plays for the Jerusalem Capitals, isn’t a tourist, but given he’s played hockey overseas since he was 17, he feels a bit like one.

experiences this season. Israeli hockey is growing rapidly, and it’s good to hear about the triumphs they had at the various levels from senior on down to U18 this season.”

Next season, Averny promises the league will be even bigger and better. He’s working with the city of Ashdod to build a rink for the league. “It will be great for us to have a home and it will also help us save costs,” he said.



Produced in association with ISRAEL21c

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