Forester freshman Zach Feldman and sophomore Ryan Kruss will join Lake Forest College alumni Aaron Vickar '99, Jeremy Freid '98, and Todd Lewis '94 at the 20th World Maccabi Games. The tournament is slated to begin on July 4 and conclude on July 18 in Jerusalem.
Held every four years, the Maccabi Games is the largest international Jewish sporting event. It is an Olympic-style competition organized by The Maccabi World Union, an association that utilizes sports as a means to bring Jewish people of all ages closer to Judaism. This year's event will host around 10,000 athletes and an additional 22,000 fans from more than 80 countries. Participants will compete in 43 different sports.
Feldman, a defenseman from San Diego, California, finished the 2016-17 season with 13 points on five goals and eight assists. His talent, however, was recognized before the season began when he was selected to represent the United States at the Games after a series of tryouts in Philadelphia last summer.
Feldman is no stranger to international play, having competed in the Maccabi Games four years ago at the junior level in baseball. He returned home with a gold medal and hopes to have the same result this year. Although competing in a different sport this time around, Feldman believes his "previous experience will help him know what to expect."
Joining Feldman on the ice is teammate Ryan Kruss. A defensemen from Ontario, Canada, Kruss helped the Foresters post a 16-10-0 overall record and 12-8-0 mark in NCHA play this past season. He finished his sophomore year with 11 points on a goal and 10 assists.
Kruss also enters the tournament with prior experience competing internationally. In 2010, he played in a sub-tournament of the Maccabi games. Kruss was also chosen to represent Team Canada last summer after an extensive try-out process in Toronto. As Kruss looks forward to the trip, he is overwhelmed with "feelings of pride and excitement" for the chance to play for and represent his home country. He stated that "anytime someone is given the opportunity to represent his or her country, it's a huge honor." In preparation for the trip, Kruss trained religiously in the gym and on the ice with a friend from home.
Also making the trip to Israel for the second time are Lake Forest College alumni Aaron Vickar '99, Jeremy Freid '98, and Todd Lewis '95. Vickar and Freid finished second to Canada at the 1997 Maccabi Games and Lewis last competed at the 2013 Games. All three alum will represent Team USA on the Masters Men's Hockey Team.
Having competed 20 years ago, Vickar and Freid plan to approach this experience with a different perspective and are excited that their families will be able to join them. Vickar stated, "my kids will be there to see me play. My wife has seen me play competitive hockey, but my kids have not seen me play at this level before so for me, that is the most exciting part."
Freid shared a similar view to Vickar when he commented, "having competed once already, a lot of the warm fuzzies will be gone and I can concentrate a little deeper on the experience itself." He went on to say that, "Now that I am married with kids, I'm going to look at the experience differently."
As veterans on the ice, Vickar, Freid, and Lewis have a couple pieces of advice to give to Feldman and Kruss.
Freid began by stating, "To take it all in. Absorb as much you can. It is going to be sensory overload I think initially, but eventually it will be a memorable experience you will look back on."
Vickar then commented, "Just have fun. Enjoy every moment. Once in a lifetime for us. We're fortunate that it's now twice, but treat it like it's a once in a lifetime experience."
"Enjoy the experience. It's a wonderful country. It's very unique to anything that we have here with the culture and history…and to go win!" stated Lewis.
Feldman (USA) and Kruss (Canada) will face each other in the first game of the five-team round robin tournament on Wednesday, July 5. The third and fourth ranked teams in the tournament will match up on Friday, July 14, and the top two teams will compete the following day. A complete schedule for the men's open tournament can be found here.
A round robin format will also be used in the Masters four-team tournament. Vickar, Freid, and Lewis will face Canada on Wednesday, July 5 and then Russia on Friday, July 7. Two semifinal games will be held on Wednesday, July 12 with the bottom two teams facing off on Thursday, July 13 and the winners on Friday, July 14. A complete schedule can be found here.
For more information about the Maccabi Games, click here.