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Maccabiah Games highly meaningful for Molly Tissenbaum

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With a highly eventful year in women’s ice hockey, one of the defining moments involved a historic tournament at the 21st Maccabiah Games. A quadrennial event hosted in Israel, this year’s delegation consisted of over 600 Canadians.

As women’s ice hockey was contested for the first time at the 2022 edition of the Games, another encouraging step forward towards increasing the game’s global relevance. Encompassing heritage and national pride for all players involved, the event marked a compelling return to competition for Canadian goaltender Molly Tissenbaum.

Prior to the opening face-off, a treasured milestone allowed for Tissenbaum to begin her hockey sojourn in Israel on a highly empowering note. Along with volleyball players Nick and Conaire Taub, she enjoyed the privilege of serving as a flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games. As a side note, the 2022 event featured 10,000 athletes from 60 different countries. 

“Being a flag bearer for the Canadian Delegation was an absolutely incredible experience. It was an honor to be asked, and getting to lead the athletes in with Conaire and Nick Taub was beyond what I could have imagined. It was especially meaningful knowing that this was the largest Canadian Delegation in it’s history, we had the most women and girls ever, and was the first time that women’s hockey was going to be included in the games. 

At some point during the procession, our media and communications lead Dan, who was walking head of the twins and I, told us to pause and turn around to see the sea of red and white we were leading. Seeing all those athletes, leading all those athletes, and knowing that my dad was in the stadium and my family was watching at home, was an unbelievable moment I will never forget.”

Equally poignant, the exciting impact of women’s ice hockey at the Games brought Tissenbaum’s competitive journey full circle. Her grandfather, Dr. Ben Tissenbaum competed in basketball at the 1953 edition of the Games. In addition, her uncle Allan and brother Maxx also participated in the Games. During the 2010s, Maxx played baseball professionally, having worn the paraphernalia of clubs such as the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Greensboro Grass Hoppers and the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, among others.

Back in 2017, Molly appeared at the Games, participating in softball, adding to the proud Tissenbaum lineage in event lore. Coincidentally, one of her softball teammates, Lauren Weisbarth also excelled on the ice. With each expressing interest to Maccabi Canada about women’s ice hockey as a medal sport, it was only fitting both held a place on Canada’s golden roster in 2022.

Raised in Toronto, Tissenbaum excelled as a two sport star in ice hockey and softball. Experiencing the thrill of international competition during her teens, she played at the International Softball Federation U16 World Championships.

On the ice, the former Willowdale Red Wings star goaltender enjoyed a chance to play NCAA hockey, standing between the pipes for the Ivy League’s Harvard Crimson. Worth noting, fellow Canadian goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer was a teammate in her freshman campaign.

Among Tissenbaum’s highlights with Harvard, a November 11, 2016 match versus Ivy League rival Princeton resulted in a brilliant 50 save performance. Coincidentally, Brianna Laing, one of Tissenbaum’s goalie partners that season, is the younger sister of Denna Laing, a former captain at Princeton and Isobel Cup champion.

The season prior, another unique coincidence occurred. On October 17, 2015, an exhibition game saw dynasty and destiny collide. Facing off versus Montreal’s McGill Martlets, Maschmeyer and Tissenbaum collaborated in a 3-2 win. Worth noting, McGill head coach Peter Smith, served in the same role for Canada’s women’s team at the 2022 Games.

Such a feeling of serendipity served as one of the many fascinating storylines for Tissenbaum. Returning between the pipes, a stirring comeback since the days of Harvard, ascending to the status of national hero, she recorded a perfect 3-0 record, allowing only three goals. With a shutout versus Israel in Canada’s opening game, a pair of appearances versus the United States, including a highly emotional 6-2 win in the gold medal game.

“When I graduated from Harvard, I had accepted that my hockey career had come to a close. I felt that I was ready to find my next adventure and my next challenge. 

Hockey had given me so much, and I did not think there was anything that I had left in question. Yet, when I caught wind that there was going to finally be a women’s hockey tournament at the Maccabiah Games for the first time, I knew I was not done. I knew I had to take the chance to get back on the ice and play.

The tireless work that the women on my team, the American team, and most importantly, the Israeli team put in to make this a reality cannot be understated. This was a Maccabean effort in the truest sense of the word.”

Looking back on the milestone of women’s ice hockey at the Maccabiah Games, the love of the game represented part of the narrative for Tissenbaum. The aspects of celebration proved just as essential. From the majesty of the Opening Ceremonies, the feeling of national pride accentuated carrying the Canadian flag, to the medal ceremony, tugging at the heartstrings, it supplied Tissenbaum with a lifetime of memories. 

Equally poignant was the prospect of mentoring, making new friends on the ice. Sharing her acumen with the young goaltenders of Team Israel, including teenage phenom Yael Fatiev, during one of their practices, the act of kindness embodied a tremendous sense of community and inspiring sportsmanship. 

Addditionally, the off-ice journeys throughout Jerusalem, including an expedition to the famous Dead Sea, provided the dual function of recreation and team building. Visiting the Oasis known as Ein Gedi, meaning “Spring of the Kid”, found in close proximity to the Qumran Caves, where numerous Dead Sea scrolls were found, the spiritual connection encompassed Tissenbaum’s philosophical perspective on the Games, forever proud to have participated in the inaugural edition,

“From a tournament and competition perspective, what I enjoyed most was the opening ceremonies, and the gold medal game and medal ceremony. Those were two historic moments, and to be a part of both was truly incredible.

From a cultural perspective, the two highlights were getting the opportunity to get on the ice with Team Israel for one of their practices to work with their goalies. There is something magical about getting the chance to work with a group of young women who have such a pure and unencumbered love of hockey. 

My other highlight was getting to hike to Ein Gedi with my team. The waterfall in the middle of the desert feels like a perfect metaphor for women’s hockey at Maccabiah: a thing that does not seem to make sense logically, but that has incredible meaning and impact when you see it and experience it.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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