Jewish day school hockey players gather en masse between games at this year’s Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Tournament.
Throngs of excited kids swarmed Chesswood Arenas last week for the Jewish Day School Hockey League’s (JDSHL) 13th annual Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Tournament.
Russell Pritchard, a parent who is now in his third year as co-convenor of the tournament and has a son at United Synagogue Day School who played in the tourney, called this year’s games “amazing” and said he was proud of the effort on display by players and volunteers alike.
The rink’s four arenas were packed with cheering parents and friends of the players, many of whom were bused in by their respective schools to support the players.
The JDSHL estimated that close to 600 people attended the day-long tournament, held Feb. 8.
“It was a whirlwind of excitement,” Pritchard told The CJN last week.
He also praised his co-convenor, parent Errol Singer, and tournament co-directors Kelly Bernknopf and Ellise Benitah, also parents, for their work.
“Errol and I arranged for the refs and the ice, but Kelly and Ellise were truly great, arranging the food, collecting the trophies and just making sure everything was done for the kids,” Pritchard said.
The non-contact, co-ed league consists of 14 teams, 238 players in all, from five Jewish day schools and their various campuses: USDS, Associated Hebrew Schools, Bialik Hebrew Day School, Leo Baeck Day School and the Toronto Heschel School.
The regular season began last December – with weekly games being held in the early mornings at Chesswood Arenas, before classes – and culminated with the memorial tournament.
“We shaped a league that is more than just hockey,” the 2008 JDSHL tournament program read. “It has been a social environment where kids could be amongst peers from many schools. It’s a wonderful opportunity for families throughout the Jewish community… to bring us all together.”
Pritchard, who this year coached the USDS Bayview campus senior team, echoed the sentiments while waiting outside his team’s locker room.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids and… realizing that we’re giving them a chance to play against friends from other Jewish schools,” he said. “A lot of these kids play in city leagues during the year, and this allows them to [re-connect] with their friends in a sport they love.”
Singer noted that despite the odd complaint, most parents thanked the organizers for their work.
“They’re very positive, because the kids love it,” he said, pleased by the day’s turnout. “In fact, my kid told me his main objective is to be on his school team from Grade 3 to Grade 8. Not exactly the [scholastic] priority I had in mind.”
Once again, the tournament was divided into a competition for younger kids in grades 3 to 5, and one for grades 6 through 8.
This year, the eight junior teams were divided into four divisions – tiers A through D – while the six senior teams played a round-robin to determine the champs and consolation finalists.
In what Pritchard called “maybe the best game ever played in the JDSHL,” Associated Kamin defeated Leo Baeck North by a score of 3-2 in their third game of a mini-series to determine the Tier A junior champions.
“It was amazing,” Pritchard said. “There were 300 or more fans in the crowd from each school watching that [series].”
Other results from the junior divisions saw Bialik capture the Tier B championship with a 4-2 win over USDS Bayview. USDS Bathurst took the Tier C championship with an 8-2 win over Leo Baeck South, and Associated Posluns won the Tier D championship with a 9-4 victory over Heschel.
On the senior side, Leo Baeck North beat Associated in a tough 5-4 battle to win the championship.
The consolation finals had USDS Bayview beating Bialik 3-2, while USDS Bathurst defeated Leo Baeck South 8-2 in another consolation game.
Pritchard noted that like any hockey league, the JDSHL has many “hockey parents” who sometimes get belligerent about how the league is run or about some of the rules.
Still, he said most parents appreciate the work that he and his leadership team put into the JDSHL, and he said he is gratified by the support they continue to receive from the community.
“After I take a breather from the tournament, I just enjoy it,” Pritchard said. “So I think I’ll be back doing this again next year.”