Currently an assistant coach for the Nazareth Golden Flyers, Zoey Pellowitz, a former star player for Manhattanville College, gained the opportunity to grace the ice once again. Wearing the Stars and Stripes at the Maccabiah Games, feelings of rejuvenation and eagerness added to a compelling milestone.
Having served as team captain in her senior season at Manhattanville, the impressive list of achievements saw Pellowitz earn a pair of UCHC First Team All-Conference selections, plus the Middle Atlantic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award. Complemented by a cerebral approach to the game refined through the coaching experience, Pellowitz definitely emerged as an essential leader for the US.
With a three-day training camp in Philadelphia, the rather accelerated process saw the team gel quickly. Avid to play a part in such an historic event, strong feelings of national pride quickly stirred.
Heading into the first game with Team USA at the Maccabiah Games, a July 13 tilt versus Team Israel, Pellowitz noticed the development of an unbreakable bond taking shape with the roster. Recounting how each of the players brought enthusiasm to the roster, grinning from ear to ear, the 11-0 victory was overshadowed by an appreciation for the collective efforts of those whose perseverance made the tournament a reality.
“Our team bonded extremely quickly. We grew to be a family in the first week and the friendships continued to grow throughout the whole trip. Training camp definitely helped speed up the process.
I felt like I left Israel with 21 new sisters. It was pretty incredible how cohesive our team was from the start. Heading into the first game I felt nothing but excitement. It felt surreal.
Everyone was just pumped to be there. I do not think anyone on the team stopped smiling the entire game. When you see people put so much time and effort into making something happen, it is pretty special to see the vision come to life.”
Having never traveled to Israel, the opportunity to play hockey there allowed Pellowitz to get closer to her faith and heritage. With Jerusalem’s Pais Arena serving as the backdrop for the tournament, the prospect of visiting so many sites presented the best of both worlds.
Maccabi hockey was played in the huge Pais Arena, usually used for hoops. But NHL — thank you, Gary Bettman — donated a portable rink with major help from NHL owners and Maccabi executive, Joe Cohen. The hockey competition was excellent and even was shown on Israeli tv.— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) July 26, 2022
From the sublime visuals of such sites, to the residual comfort of the rink, painting a vivid portrait, Pellowitz found a sense of renewal. The overall atmosphere providing a highly positive energy, the region definitely tugged at the heartstrings.
“Visiting Jerusalem and all the sites was really awesome. I feel like I have lost some connection with my religion over time. Therefore, being surrounded by so many people that share the same beliefs and values as me was something really special. The sites in general were all so beautiful and I cannot wait to visit again in the future.”
With a podium finish adding luster to the experience of the Games, Pellowitz’s reflections encompassed a tremendous appreciation for the enthusiasm that all players brought to the rink.
Of note, the biggest impression involved meeting the competitors that comprised Team Israel’s roster. Earlier in the year, the Israeli team participated in Division III, Group B play of the IIHF Women’s Worlds, gaining their inaugural exposure to international play.
Certainly, a group of dedicated individuals keen towards expanding the sport, one that remains nascent in their homeland, their assiduous dedication served as a source of inspiration. Pondering the possibilities of the 2025 edition of the Games, an outlook filled with tremendous optimism, Pellowitz shares the hope of growing the female game in Israel.
“I say this to everyone I have talked to but I do not have a single bad thing to say about the Games. I learned so much through the experience, made so many incredible new friendships, and left with a medal.
The thing that stuck out to me the most was the love that Team Israel had for the game of hockey. They were incredibly passionate about the sport and I envy them for how hard they worked every second of every game.
I had the privilege of meeting a lot of the Israeli team members off the ice and they were all incredible people. They taught me so much that I cannot even put into words. Meeting and playing against them was absolutely the highlight of my trip. I am looking forward to growing the game of hockey in Israel.
As cheesy as it sounds, it was truly a magical experience. I will remember this trip for a long time and cannot wait to do it all over again in 2025.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”