CALGARY – Travelling a long way to play hockey in Calgary, the Canada-Israel Hockey School (CIHS) is about more than winning and losing—it’s about building friendships and promoting tolerance.
A group of 20 girls and boys ages 10 to 14 from the CIHS in Israel’s northern town of Metulla arrived in Calgary Tuesday for a game at the Max Bell Arena.
The school promotes the integration of Jewish and Arab youth through hockey.
“The importance for us is that these kids—their parents or their grandparents may not have been the best of friends, but these kids have the opportunity to change that,” said Mitch Miller, who arrived at Calgary’s airport with the kids from CIHS.
“As hockey players, as we know being in Canada, you go on a road trip, you don’t really care where the other guy lives or his background, all you want to know is: Is he a good teammate?”
The group is on a western Canadian tour, during which Calgary families will host the young players.
“When they travel, they have to understand: One Jewish kid, one Arab kid, are hosted by a local family,” said Miller. “Some of them don’t speak English very well, they either speak Arabic or Hebrew, so they actually have to do some translation amongst themselves to help each other.”
In Metulla, the group plays at the only full-size arena in the country, just one kilometre from the Lebanon border.
Here in Calgary, the group will take in Wednesday’s Flames game so they can see the passion Canadians have for hockey. The group will play a second game Thursday at the Westside Recreation Centre, followed by some free time and a hockey practice at the Saddledome on Sunday before heading home to Israel.
The CIHS has enrolled over 450 children from various backgrounds and both genders over the last four years, and offers road trips to different parts of Canada, Finland and the United States.
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