Israeli ice hockey star signs with Auschwitz team

Captain of Israel’s national ice hockey team to suit up for Oświęcim, the town where Auschwitz is located.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The captain of Israel’s national ice hockey team has signed a contract to play for the team in the Polish town where the infamous World War II extermination camp is located, saying, “I want to be the best player in Poland,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

Eliezer Sherbatov, 28, grew up in the Israeli city of Rehovot and played hockey in Israel for the Metulla hockey club, home to Israel’s first Olympic rink.

Showing prowess on the ice in his youth, he moved to Canada in 2008 to play junior hockey in Quebec but rejoined the Israeli national hockey team for world championship tournaments, starring for both the junior and senior national teams.

Before signing with the TH Unia Oświęcim club, he played professionally in France, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

“People here in Poland are happy that a Jew from Israel came to play for Auschwitz,” Sherbatov told Yediot Aharonot. “I am happy to make this history, and of course want to help not forget the Holocaust.”

Sherbatov is very aware of his Jewish past, and the significance of playing for the team that carries the name associated with the death camp was a factor.

“I have a great deal of motivation because it is Auschwitz,” Sherbatov said. “I want to win the championship, the Polish Cup and the continental title, and then everyone will know the one who did this is a Jewish-Israeli.”

Ice hockey started in Israel when the first tiny rink opened in 1986 in the town of Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa. The Ice Hockey Federation of Israel was formed by immigrants from Canada, America and the former Soviet Union, joining the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1991.

Israel has been playing in world championship tournaments since 1992 and ice hockey is an official sport of the Maccabiah, the quadrennial “Jewish Olympics.”

There are some eight ice rinks in Israel, including two Olympic size ice pads and a new NHL-size rink near Netanya, north of Tel Aviv.

Shebatov was scheduled to join the national team for the 2020 Division II, Group A world championship tournament that was to be held in Croatia but ended up being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year he captained the squad to the gold medal at the Group B world championship that was held in Mexico City, gaining a promotion to the Group A tournament. That tournament has been rescheduled to take place in Beijing in April, 2021 when the Israelis face China, Spain, Croatia, Australia and Holland.