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Serving as team captain for a highly promising program in the stages of growth, Chen Kotler has also adopted the empowering role of pioneer. Dedicated towards increasing the profile of Israel’s national women’s ice hockey team, simultaneously working tirelessly to bring improvement on-ice, the calendar year of 2022 provided a series of seminal moments.

Wearing the number six, bringing a strong work ethic, always geared towards setting a positive example, perhaps the most rewarding facet for Kotler is that hockey is a family affair. Proudly calling her younger sister Shani a teammate, their shared journey wearing the Israel jersey involves another member.

In addition to serving in a coaching capacity, their father Boris, is also the proprietor of a rink. Coincidentally, he was one of two coaches named Boris on Team Israel’s coaching staff. Joined by Boris Mendel, the two collaborated with head coach Ty Newberry. 

To share in the hockey experience with her father and sister stand as the hallmark of Kotler’s career. Having played with her father on a team in Ness Ziona, his presence has always provided a highly positive influence, instilling a greater sense of responsibility.

“Sharing hockey experiences with my dad, on the one hand, is very fun and special. We have been experiencing a lot of training, games, training camps and tournaments abroad together over many years. 

On the other hand, I feel a greater responsibility on the ice. Being able to stand alongside both my father and sister at the IIHF tournament was a once in a lifetime moment filled with pride and excitement.”

The tournament in question resulted in one where Kotler left her mark in both, national team and IIHF lore, scoring an epic goal synonymous with history. With Belgrade, Serbia serving as host city, Israel was one of four competing nations at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, Division III, Group B tournament. Along with the host Serbians, plus Bosnia Herzegovina, the Israeli team were among three nation’s making their IIHF women’s debut.

Of note, the tournament’s opening saw Israel facing off versus Bosnia Herzegovina at Belgrafe’s Pioneer Ice Hall, an historic debut for both. While Irma Kapic made history with the first Bosnian goal, Kotler found the back of the net for Israel at the 25:24 mark of the second. Recording the historic goal versus Hana Sadovic, Kotler’s sister Shani logged the assist, adding to the feeling of achievement.

“Scoring Israel’s first goal at the IIHF level came with great pride, both for myself and our team. Along with the euphoric moment, it gave us the boost of energy and confidence to continue giving our all on the ice.”

Equally impactful for Kotler saw proud standing as team captain, another historic first. With the C adorning her jersey at the IIHF tournament, plus the celebrated Maccabiah Games, the sense of duty and responsibility made Kotler the glue that held the team together.

“Being captain is exciting. In account of this being the first year our team has come together, it was a challenge to understand how we work in conjunction as teammates on the rink and outside of it.

It took us a little while at the beginning to find common ground. After a little fine tuning, hours on the ice, and long bus rides, we grew as a team and were united.”

Following on the momentum of the IIHF tournament, Kotler led Team Israel into the Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial event hosting elite athletes from the world over of Jewish heritage. Marking the first women’s ice hockey event in the Holy Land, the opportunity to grace the ice along their peers took on a monumental meaning. Taking into account that there is no competitive league for women in Israel, most play sees these pioneering women grace the ice versus men’s club teams. 

With Israel facing off versus Canada, led by captain Melissa Wronzberg, while Chelsey Goldberg served in the same role for the United States, the event provided Kotler with a fascinating highlight. Having longed for an opportunity to share the ice with other women’s teams, the events of 2022 marked a significant paradigm shift.

Emerging from the Maccabiah Games with a bronze medal, the learning experience proved just as essential for Kotler. With the legacy of the inaugural women’s ice hockey tournament at the Maccabiah Games a key moment in the evolution of the national team, heralding a new era of competitiveness, it is an element that provides a highly dedicated Kotler with tremendous fulfillment.

“Being able to compete against high-level female hockey players was a first for me, something I have been waiting for since I was young. In Israel, ice hockey is a male-dominated sport. So, there are not many opportunities to play against women. I also enjoyed meeting all the different people of the Maccabiah Games, bonding as a team and watching professional level games from the first row.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated

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In this article: #IIHF, #Israel, #MaccabiahGames, #WomenInSport, #Womenshockey, grow the game, Hockey

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