By George Da Silva – National Teams of ice Hockey
We had the great pleasure of speaking with Tal and his partner Mark founders of the Israel Elite Hockey League.
Nobody would have ever dream of starting a league during a pandemic but Tal and Mark had a dream and with great effort and determination they were able to start a ice hockey in Israel.
How did this adventure in starting up a league start for you?
For many years players in Israel have dreamed of having a league where all the best Israeli players can compete against one another, adding import players to the mix would help increase the level of play for Israeli players and give them a chance to compete against players they might not have otherwise.
We decided to take those things and create an opportunity for both Israeli and import players to get value out of not just playing hockey in Israel but experiencing the country and everything it has to offer.
Was this league started to raise the level of play in Israel and the Israeli hockey player or are there
This league was started to grow the sport of hockey in Israel. When we first started this league,
We envisioned it opening up the eyes of Israeli citizens to a sport that many of them don’t know about. Not only do we want to grow the sport of hockey in Israel, we also want to expose the rest of the world to Israeli hockey along with the Israeli people and their culture. This league was started as a culmination of both objectives, and we are exceeding expectations already.
What difficulties did you have in starting up a league during a pandemic?
The league was on its way to be even bigger during our inaugural season before the pandemic hit. We had plenty of import players waiting to come and play in our league, but because of the pandemic, we could only get so many entry permits for players and most were unable to come, so we were able to bring over 12 imports. It forced us to be a much smaller league than we would have liked, but we were still able to have a fun and competitive season with a smaller group of players.
This is part of the reason why we are even more excited for this upcoming season, as we are able to import many more players from all over the world to come play in the IEHL and experience Israel like never before.
Where does the financial backing come from?
Currently the IEHL is a tuition based league & experience, each player pays a fee to come to Israel, travel around the country, live in Tel Aviv etc the hockey is a part of the entire experience. As the IEHL grows it’s sponsorship partners it will help continue to subsidize the cost for players to come and add more value for each player’s experience.
Is there a limit on how many foreign players can play on each team?
There is no limit to how many foreign players can play on each team, but we would like to have as diverse teams as possible, meaning we want to combine both our import players and Israeli players so everyone has a chance to compete together.
You just completed the first year of the league. What things would you like to improve on going into
the second season?
Well first and foremost, we would like the league to be bigger than last year, and we are already on track to reach that goal with adding 2 new teams for the new season. Another big improvement for this season is we will move to 5v5 and play on an Olympic sheet of ice. We hope to continue adding sponsors to our partnership list and grow the IEHL.
You mentioned this year will be 5 on 5 hockey and played on an Olympic ice surface. Does
this mean all league games will be played in One ice Arena?
While there are only so many options for first class hockey facilities here in Israel,
We are currently in very close talks with one ice Arena to host the IEHL this summer.
The other option would be hosting the IEHL in Jerusalem, at Pias Arena.
Will we see any Israelis from the league play on the national team in the future?
Yes, there are several local Israel players that play on the national teams here in Israel.
We have players playing on both the U20 and Senior national teams.
This coming season almost all the national team players living in Israel will be playing in the IEHL.
Are there any plans for club teams to compete in IIHF club tournaments?
As the IEHL is a private league not affiliated with the IIHF currently, I don’t think we would have the chance to enter a team into any club tournaments. It is something that could be possible in the future with some sort of affiliation with the IIHF.
How can fans watch and follow the league?
Every single one of our games will be streamed live on our YouTube channel,
The Israel National Hockey Society. Fans can always check up on our stats and standings on our website, Israelhockey.com, we are also in talks to have our games broadcasted locally.