Having played for the US at the 2022 ISBHF Women’s Worlds in Quebec, Canada, the extension of a sparkling legacy with the national team, the event marked the first chapter in a memorable hockey trilogy for Karen Levin. Less than a month later, Levin gained the privilege to don the Stars and Stripes once again. Contributing towards an historic moment, the milestone filled the pride of Skokie, Illinois with joy.
Competing in the inaugural women’s ice hockey tournament at the 21st Maccabiah Games, gracing the ice for the United States marked the continuation of a compelling narrative. Signifying the first women’s tournament in Games history, an event several years in the making, the chance for Levin to participate proved to be one highly cherished.
“The opportunity to go from an ISBHF event into the 21st Maccabiah Games was incredibly special. Just having the opportunity to play in one international tournament in a year is a privilege. I will have three opportunities this summer. In September, I laced up the sneakers again for Team USA in the Masters Worlds in the Czech Republic. Putting on the USA jersey means a lot to me. I get to play with amazing people and represent my country in sports I love. It is a dream come true.”
In the aftermath of the Maccabiah Games, which saw the US face off versus Canada in the gold medal game, Levin enjoyed another podium finish. Returning to the slab as summer neared its conclusion, Levin’s competitive trilogy in an unforgettable 2022 ended on an exhilarating note, another emphasis on history made.
Reaching the gold medal game at the ISBHF Masters, contested in Kladno, Czech Republic, the US opposed the defending gold medallists from Canada. Adding another layer to this fascinating hockey rivalry, one that Levin has experienced numerous times, it was only fitting that she was involved in the outcome.
With Lauren Bracco scoring for the US at 6:54, followed by Canada’s captain Shelley Cockerill scoring on Liz Conner, Levin also placed her name on the scoresheet. Finding the back of the net for her third goal of the tournament, assisted by Anne Girtz, wearing the number 99, Levin provided the US with the lead once again.
Enjoying a 2-1 advantage, Levin’s goal not only stood as the game-winning tally, it signified one of the most important goals scored in US ball hockey history. As the victory provided the victorious Americans with the gold medal, it also represented the first ever gold in any ISBHF competition for the US women’s team. Solidifying Levin’s legacy among the all-time greats, her body of work in the game stands as testament to perseverance and dedication.
Undeniably, that sense of history was accentuated by the experience of gracing the ice at Pais Arena for the 21st Maccabiah Games. Setting the tone for an exciting time, one accentuated by a series of fantastic firsts, the Games provided a career-defining event for a highly proud Levin. While hockey has provided a profound personal jersey of discovery, perhaps the most compelling aspect is the fact that there always remains more summits to reach, history and achievement simultaneously providing fulfillment.
“Thank you for calling my career great. I have been really privileged through hockey; it has provided me with amazing opportunities to learn about myself and the world as a young person, through college, and well into adulthood.
What did the Games mean to me? It meant being part of a ‘first’. This is the first year women’s ice hockey is part of the Maccabiah. Being an inaugural player means you are part of a lot of firsts. I was there for the first ever game, the first USA goal, the first hat trick, the first win, the first Israel goal, the first gold medal game, and so much more. To be written into the history books is special and unique.”
Worth noting, the Maccabiah Games represented Levin’s second sojourn to Israel. As a 13-year-old, Levin embarked on a fascinating seven-day journey, dubbed Ta’am Yisrael (A Taste of Israel). Eager for a third trip one day, the most rewarding element of the 2022 trip encompassed new friendships. Although Levin and Jodi Berris ranked highest on the team in terms of age, to see the sense of wonder and amazement among the youthful members of Team Israel, and those wearing the Stars and Stripes, provided a bold rejuvenation.
Captivated by the common thread of hockey, one made much richer by a shared faith, from the on-ice competition, to breaking bread off the ice, Levin found inspiration. Moved by the remarkable efforts of Israel’s women to grow the sport, many balancing military service with their love of sport, their fascinating journey resulted in a newfound appreciation for their national team, one that Levin hopes will develop into a lasting friendship.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with new people the most. I was the second most senior member of the US team (aka I am old [laughs]), and I enjoyed hearing about the ambitions of my teammates starting their young adulthood.
In addition, we had the opportunity to share meals with Team Israel. I really enjoyed hearing the stories from players in Israel about how they got into hockey, or what their day-to-day life looks like playing hockey and living in Israel.
There are fewer rinks and players in Israel, but those that are playing are dedicated and, like me, will travel any distance to play because we love the sport so much. A few Israel players are active military members and as someone that lives in a country without mandatory service, I was eager to learn about their experiences.
It was powerful to me the connection we all had with hockey in common, living thousands of miles away, but we felt like we knew each other because of our shared interest in this sport. It was really cool and special. I hope to stay in touch and when I visit Israel again, to reconnect with the team and play some more hockey with them!
Experiencing Israel was amazing. Jerusalem has so much history I feel like I have only scratched the surface with my time there. I most enjoyed the underground tour of the old city. Archaeologists are digging out the ruins from underneath the current ground level and finding some amazing things. I loved our days at Masada and the Dead Sea, and in Caesarea and Tel Aviv.
Plus, I think my most memorable day was our day of service. We went to Beit Halochem, a rehab center for wounded veterans, and heard a powerful story from a wounded veteran, then spent the afternoon playing wheelchair basketball, tennis, table tennis, archery, and riding adaptive bicycles with other veterans. It was incredible to just play sports and see the joy and connection we have with folks that have experienced something very difficult, but together in sport we can smile and play together.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”