Sabras and slap shots: North Americans bring hockey know-how to Israel

Drew Koike knew a bit about Israel: its capital, location, climate and biblical roots. But it never dawned on the 14-year-old Washingtonian that hockey existed in the country.

That was until earlier this year, when the coach of his hometown hockey program invited Koike and two other young charges on a summer trip to Israel to play and teach the sport.

The quartet spent 11 days there, mostly at the ice rink inside Canada Centre, a sports facility in the northern town of Metulla.

Joining them were four Canadians, notably Laurie Boschman, a former National Hockey League veteran, and Tessa Bonhomme, who played for the Canadian women’s gold medal-winning team at the 2010 Olympics, as well as two teenage goalies.

For the eight North Americans, mostly non-Jews, venturing to the Middle East meant sharing their wisdom with more than 50 Israeli children devoted to the sport in a country with almost no hockey consciousness.

The visit grew out of the trip to Washington, D.C., four months earlier of 24 kids from the Canada Israel Hockey School, a program located at the Metulla rink.

In equal measure, the visit to Metulla reprised the hockey camps run there nearly two decades ago by the late Roger Neilson, a longtime NHL coach and observant Christian who loved Israel. Returning to Canada, Neilson would rave about each summer’s experience.

His programs are credited with having planted the seeds of hockey in Israel.

“Our plan from Day 1 was to start up the camp the way Roger Neilson used to do — bring kids here from North America from different backgrounds,” said Mitch Miller, an Ottawa resident who assembled and accompanied this summer’s group with plans to make it an annual event.

Miller and fellow Canadian Zach Springer were the only Jewish members of the North American delegation. And of the five teenagers, just Koike had been abroad before.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’ve had a great time,” Koike said during the trip. “The idea of hockey in Israel sounded like two cool things put together.”

Boschman, who scored 229 goals for five teams in a 14-year NHL career, had run hockey clinics for youths in four European countries while working for a Christian group, Hockey Ministries International — but never in Israel.

In Metulla, he and Bonhomme, a defenseman who starred at Ohio State, led morning and afternoon on-ice drills along with midday training sessions that included running the rink’s steps and weight and cardiovascular exercises.

Springer and his friend, Jack Moore, both 15 from Kingston, Ontario, imparted knowledge of the goalie position to their Israeli peers. By week’s end, Springer said, the two were particularly gratified by the progress shown by one of the Israelis.

Teaching in the program “was one of the main reasons I went,” Springer said.

All the while, the Washington coach, Ty Newberry, was instructing two dozen Israeli coaches seeking certification by U.S.A. Hockey, the Colorado-based organization that promotes youth hockey and oversees coaching; Newberry is its Southeast director.

The Ice Hockey Federation of Israel will honor the certifications, he said, with a goal of developing an indigenous certification program.

Newberry said the aim this summer was “to use this group of [Israeli] coaches as guinea pigs and see what works.”

Newberry’s 12 hours of classroom instruction and some on-ice work centered on what he called “the science behind athlete-development.” That included training coaches to teach  fundamentals like skating and stickhandling at age-appropriate levels, along with helping the adults fashion a coaching philosophy that includes a positive approach and recognizing when kids aren’t grasping a skill, then re-teaching it.

“It’s extremely positive to be in a room with a bunch of people who are eager to learn. They’re fully engaged, taking copious notes,” Newberry said of the sessions. “It’s exciting to know that … these gentlemen are really more than coaches; they’re students of the game.”

With only three ice hockey rinks in Israel – the others are in Maalot and Holon – most of the participating coaches came from in-line hockey programs.

“These are people who are quite passionate about hockey,” Boschman said. “That’s really fun to see in a non-traditional hockey market.”

Throughout the program, Newberry updated the parents of the three Washingtonians on the Hamas bombings of Israel, which were occurring far from Metulla.

“We’re not letting it bother us,” he said of the attacks,  which Israel would respond to in the nearly monthlong Operation Protective Edge. “We’re completely safe, enjoying the country, the friendships and the incredible food.”

Before the hockey program started, the visitors spent several days touring. From Metulla, they also took side trips to the Sea of Galilee, the old city of Acre, and the kibbutz and Druse village where several of the Israeli players live.

The mother of one Israeli player told them she’d moved the family to Metulla to be closer to the rink.

“It warms my heart to hear those kinds of stories,” Miller said.

Of the Israeli players, Koike said, “They’re fun to be with and fun to play hockey with. They’re really talented and work hard. You can tell that just by watching.”

When a U.S.-born soldier the group ran into asked about Bonhomme’s gold medal, she took it from her pocket, draped it around his neck and took his photograph.

Miller called the experience “a great first step” in deepening hockey’s presence in Israel. By next summer, he hopes to bring so many American and Canadian youth players that a second program needs to be organized.

Already, the North American and Israeli players and coaches plan to remain in touch by Skype and Facebook.

Said Miller: “They’re not saying ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ but ‘Next year in Metulla.’ ”


L.A. mayor and America’s decline

Last week, during the official celebration of the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told a jammed Staples Center that “there are two long-standing rules for politicians. … They say never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand, and never swear. But this is a big f—–g day,” as he held up a bottle of Bud Light.

You read that right. In front of 18,000 people at Staples and hundreds of thousands of others watching on television — many of them, of course, children — the mayor of the second-largest city in America held up a beer bottle and used the F-word.

This was not a whisper overheard by reporters. This was not an accidental loss of self-control. This was a planned use of obscene language in a public forum.

The question is: Does it matter? 

According to the Los Angeles Times report, to the vast majority of people who heard it, it didn’t:

“The audience roared. Players stood up to applaud.

“Outside Staples Center and L.A. Live, the remarks were a hit. Lake Forest resident Jeff Ottinger, who attended [the June 16] rally, said … ‘I think a lot of times politicians are uppity and stuffy and for him to actually be a fan is cool.’

“ ‘It makes me have much more respect for him,’ said Jason Werntz, 45, of Burbank.”

Not only was the mayor not apologetic, his comment was repeated on Facebook and on the official Twitter account for the L.A. Mayor’s Office.

“Soon afterward,” the Times reported, “Garcetti had similar, PG-rated messages on Facebook and his official Twitter feed. ‘There are a few rules in politics, one is never swear, but this is a BFD. @ericgarcetti welcomes the #StanleyCup to LA.’ ”

There are those of us who believe that this is an example of a civilization in decline (or even in free fall). And there are those who think that this is either no “BFD” (as Garcetti and his admirers might say) or actually a good thing. Here are two typical comments on the Los Angeles Times website:

“I love him even more!”

“I thought the comment was very humorous!! I laughed out loud when I heard it. You no sense of humor haters will never get it. That’s exactly why you are the way you are – humorless and republican, most likely. Go KINGS!”

The commenter is right about “Republican.” Of course, both Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives use expletives. The difference is how one regards using them deliberately, using them publicly even in front of children, and how one reacts in this particular instance.

Support wasn’t confined to the hundreds of commenters and thousands of fans. Not one member of the Los Angeles City Council condemned the mayor. At least one, Councilmember Mike Bonin, “said he agreed with the mayor’s vivid description of the day.”

Support for the mayor must have overwhelmed objection. As reported by the Times: “A day after using the F-word in televised remarks at an L.A. Kings victory party,” Garcetti told those who found it offensive to ‘lighten up.’ 

“ ‘I think I was just being myself for a moment there,’ he told reporters.

“ ‘Look, I think people should be kind of light about this,’ Garcetti said. ‘It’s something that plenty of people have heard in their lives for sure.’

“KNBC-TV reporter Conan Nolan asked the mayor if his cussing contributed to the coarsening of society. 

“ ‘We micro-analyze everything,’ he added. ‘We ought to let people be people. I was just being a person yesterday.’ ”

So, who are those who think this reflects serious social decay?

They probably fall into two categories: those over, let’s say, 55 years of age and religious individuals of all ages.

Older Americans grew up in a religious America, and religions draw a strong distinction between the holy and the profane. That explains why even some non-religious older Americans will find this objectionable.

But the secular and left-wing tsunami of the last half-century has all but extinguished the concept of the holy, and thereby extinguished the concept of the profane. If nothing is holy, nothing is profane.

Teachers tell us how common it has become for students to curse in class — including cursing teachers. Fifty years ago, students were allowed to mention God in class prayer. But in 1962, Supreme Court justices considered it progressive to outlaw all school prayer. And school prayer was, shortly thereafter, replaced by school cursing.

To appreciate just how perverse our moral standards have become, imagine if Garcetti, instead of celebrating with a bottle of beer and the F-word, had lit up a cigar. He would have been excoriated by every liberal medium in the country. And many millions of Americans would have expressed horror at what a poor model he was for America’s children.

A society that is horrified by a mayor publicly smoking a cigar, and either apathetic or enthusiastic about that mayor publicly holding up a beer bottle and cursing, is in deep trouble. 

One is tempted to dismiss Eric Garcetti as either a fool or a bad guy. Based on what he did and his continuing defense of it, he may be the former. But he is not the latter. He is, more than anything, a product of progressivism and a radically secularized culture.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

When your mayor drops the f-bomb

In using an expletive last week to tell a rally of hockey fans, “This is a big f–kin’ day,” did Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cross a line?

There are real data now to help answer such a question. Relatively recent technologies —  cable television, satellite radio, and social network media — provide us with a not-too-unrealistic picture of how often people swear in public and what they say when they do. People now are capable of recording and being recorded at any time. Before these new forms of reporting, the media provided a fairly sanitized view of spoken English. Newspapers today still report swearing euphemistically, as in “n word,” “f bomb,” or “an eight-letter word for animal excrement,” instead of telling us what was really said. Fortunately, YouTube now offers people like me, who study language and profanity, a more accurate picture. By all accounts, those in public places were swearing in the past, we just weren’t able or equipped to record it.

Are widely reported acts of swearing by public figures like Garcetti’s typical or not?  And are the rest of us any different—how frequently do regular people swear and what do we say?

Language scientists actually attempt to answer these questions. In one study reported in the journal Science, less than one percent of the words used by participants (who were outfitted with voice recorders over a period of time) were swear words. That doesn’t sound like very much, but if a person says 15,000 words per day, that’s about 80 to 90 f–ks and s–ts during that time. (Of course, there’s considerable variability–some people don’t say any swear words and some say hundreds more).

When I was a visiting scholar in the psychology department at UCLA in the 1990s, my research team counted how frequently people used swear words in and around Los Angeles. I reported these data in Why We Curse and compared them to previous swearing estimates. It came as no surprise to me that f–k was the most frequently recorded swear word. F–k and s–t, which first entered the English lexicon in the 15th century, usually end up first and second in our observational research, having long ago surpassed more religious profanities such as damn and hell in popular usage.

More recently, we reported in The American Journal of Psychology, that f–k and s–t appeared consistently in the vocabularies of children between 1 to 12 years of age. Yes, preschoolers say f–k—most parents already know this, of course. And we shouldn’t worry about this. There is no social science evidence to suggest a swear word would harm a youngster physically or psychologically  – even if she were watching a newscast of a respected politician swearing in public. The idea that children are harmed by hearing swear words rests on the assumption that children are naïve about profanity, and our study suggests they are not.

So please, don’t be shocked by these swear word statistics, or by public people like professional athletes and politicians swearing in public. Politicians get caught swearing all the time. This was obvious in the 1970s when we read all those “expletive deleted” references in the transcripts of President Nixon’s oval office tapes. In 2000, we caught candidate George W. Bush referring to New York Times reporter, Adam Clymer, as a “major league a–hole.” In 2004, we heard Vice President Dick Cheney tell Vermont Senator Pat Leahy to go f–k himself on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden called the passage of President Obama’s health care legislation “a big f–king deal.”. From Canada, transcripts reveal Toronto Mayor Rob Ford saying, “I’m so f–king sick of politics, dude.” I could go on with these gaffes. If you want more, take a look at Steve Anderson’s documentary F–K. F–K, which offers plenty of swearing by politicians (I appear toward the end of the film to describe children’s swearing).

I put Mayor Garcetti’s profane celebration of the Kings’ Stanley Cup in the Biden category. Whatever else you say about the mayor’s use of the term, it is not creative or original. In fact, Garcetti’s overt enthusiasm in this sports-centric context is oddly reminiscent of what happened in Quebec this March. Justin Trudeau, a liberal leader in Canada’s House of Commons, was speaking before a boxing match for a charity fund. Trudeau, who had boxed before, noted that one’s past and his fortunes were not important in boxing: ,“None of that f–king matters,” he said.

If you haven’t seen the clips of Trudeau and Garcetti on YouTube, watch them. [ADD LINKS HERE GARCETTI: TRUDEAU:] It’s obvious that these politicians (who are also both the sons of politicians) are talking to arena-filled, sports-minded audiences, but not to you and me sitting at home. In both cases the audiences at the arenas react enthusiastically with mirth; they laugh and applaud. Why not? These were predominantly male audiences for two wildly aggressive, testosterone-filled and adrenalin-soaked sports. 

To sportsmen and sports enthusiasts, f–k is not a foreign word. Profanity in sports goes back a long time. In 1995, I was invited on NBC’s Today Show to comment on what it meant when NBC Sports went in the locker room and recorded the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Greg Lloyd saying, “Let’s bring this damn thing [the conference trophy] back here next year along with the f–king Super Bowl.” By my count, the professional athletes who’ve been in trouble for swearing widely outnumber our politicians.

Yes, I swear when I play sports. Many years ago, I played hockey at Miami University (the same school attended by Alec Martinez, scorer of the Kings’ championship winning goal). I still play hockey today and I also play golf. When I play sports (especially golf) I say f–k because I make so many stupid mistakes. I also hear my mates yelling out a few s–ts, hells and goddammits. Ours isn’t trash talking to put others down. Ours is emphatic emotional speech that accompanies moments of frustration, anger, surprise and joy. So was Garcetti’s joyful “This is a f–kin’ big day.”.

But what happens when the viewer at home encounters these expletive-laced speeches on their TVs or the Internet? Some viewers take it personally, calling these guys degraders of morals and classless because they’re only thinking of the historically sexual meaning of the word fuck. Notice that both Garcetti and Trudeau (along with Bono at the Golden Globes) used f–king as an intensifier, not as a sexual obscenity. Most swear words are used connotatively (to convey emotion), not for their literal meaning, as in these examples. In the past, the Federal Communications Commission viewed every use of f–k as sexual. But the examples I’ve cited and others have nothing to do with sex — a point I’ve made as an expert witness in court.

The FCC waffles back and forth about what to do about Garcetti- and Trudeau-type “fleeting expletives,” which are spontaneous and difficult for broadcasters to control. Fox Sports apologized for Garcetti’s “inappropriate” speech but it’s not clear if Fox will be fined by the FCC. (My best guess: probably not, since Obama’s commissioners are dovish on profanity). The FCC ruled less liberally during the Bush years when conservatives had more sway and swearing incidents were demonized by media watchdog groups such as the Parents Television Council. It’s interesting that these groups don’t complain similarly about alcohol ads in professional sports. Alcohol can kill you, but swearing won’t; swearing might even help you cope with life’s stressors, according to some recent research.

Of course, the offended will always be watching. Their exact numbers and characteristics are not entirely known, but media research reveals them as exhibiting personality characteristics that are conservative, religious and sensitive to overt sexuality. They want to see broadcast standards made less lax. Older generations who are less understanding of technology may see more profanity and perceive that there is a change in language or societal habits, even when that is not the case or not the whole story. Swearing by people in positions of power swearing has always been there; it just used to be better hidden. We have to learn to accept that we are now going to see, and hear, more Garcettis.

But there is good news. The day after any swearing incident – maybe you’ve noticed — nothing happens.  No children have been harmed. No one has to be hospitalized, medicated, or admitted to a mental health facility or trauma center. Yes, some sensibilities may get joggled a little bit—but coping with slight deviations from the expected or moments of minor discomfort is part of life (and even a “teachable moment” if you’re a parent). No one, not even your mother, dies from hearing the word f–k.

Timothy Jay is a professor of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He has published numerous books and chapters on cursing, and a textbook for Prentice Hall on The Psychology of Language. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

Halachic hockey: A league of their own

As a buzzer sounded one recent Sunday at the Los Angeles Kings Valley Ice Center in Panorama City, nearly a dozen children glided — or attempted to — toward the bench as another dozen stumbled onto the rink. They lodged their blades into the frozen surface and assembled at center ice, where a referee was waiting with a black puck in his hand.

It looked like any other youth ice hockey league, save for a few exceptions: Tzitzit poked out from under most players’ jerseys, many fathers watching from the stands wore kippot, and reggae star Matisyahu was in the house watching two of his sons, Laivy and Shalom, enjoy some ice time.

Meeting every Sunday now for more than three months, the all-boys Los Angeles Jewish Hockey League (LAJHL) already has signed up more than 50 kids, according to Yitzchak Tenenbaum, who founded the league in December with Joshua Botnick and has two sons participating. 

Two of Botnick’s sons, Dovi and Ari, also play and were his motivation for helping establish LAJHL, Botnick told the Journal in an e-mail.

“They are huge hockey fans,” Botnick wrote. “I used to take them to ‘stick time’ but could not find a league their age that played on Sunday.”

LAJHL, which draws many of its participants from Hancock Park and Pico-Robertson, is not something that was in the works for years — anything but. The push to create the league came from, of all people, a non-Jewish rink manager. One day in October, when Tenenbaum took his children to the rink to skate around, the manager asked him if he’d be interested in signing them up for a league.

“I said, ‘Most of the leagues are on Shabbos, so we can’t play,’ ” Tenenbaum recalled.

So the manager suggested fielding calls for a Sunday league instead. After a friend forwarded Tenenbaum an e-mail from Botnick, who was already trying to gauge interest in a Jewish youth hockey league, the two were able to sign up 30 children in two months.

“We didn’t know what we were going to get,” said Tenenbaum, a lifelong New York Rangers fan. “We were thinking we were going to be lucky to get 20.”

Demand was so high, though, that by December, Tenenbaum and Botnick had to create two divisions for the league’s first week — one for kids ages 6-10 and another for the big boys, ages 11-13. The league plans to add a 14-17 age group after Passover, Botnick said.

For most of the players, this is their first time playing ice hockey competitively. While Tenenbaum and Botnick said they plan to turn LAJHL into a league with set teams, standings, playoffs and trophies, for now the Sunday games are less about winning than about teaching the game to novices.

During a recent game for the younger division, it was more like six-on-six hockey with training wheels than the high-speed, board-smashing kind. There was some light checking, but many more little falls by kids still learning the art of high-speed ice skating.

There were three coaches, all parents, skating along with the players, and the lines changed every two and a half minutes during the three 15-minute periods. On the ice, the athletes were in full protective hockey gear — helmet, shoulder pads, shin guards and all. 

Avi Goldman, 8, a goaltender, recently switched to the position so that he could get more playing time — the goalies don’t sub out at each interval. 

“He saved the game last week in a shootout,” his father, Eli Goldman, said of his son, who was sporting the No. 8 jersey. 

Asked why he wanted Avi to play ice hockey, Goldman responded, in jest, “He doesn’t know how to fight, so I figured he might as well learn on the ice.” (For the record, the LAJHL prohibits all brawls.)

Although the score — a tie at 3-3 — wasn’t all that important, skaters like Tenenbaum’s 8-year-old son, Tzemach, were certainly playing to win. After the match, Tzemach said he was upset when the referee, Botnick, didn’t call a penalty after a player on the white team supposedly tripped him into the boards.

The boy also succinctly explained his hockey philosophy and why he enjoys playing the offensive position of center:  “I like to score goals. I hate stopping goals.” 

Eli Dror, 9, who also prefers playing center, said he only got into hockey recently, just after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012.

Botnick and Tenenbaum expect the league to keep expanding, but it will take time and, likely, donations and sponsorships.

“We would like to do one or two practices a week,” Tenenbaum said. “We would like for it to grow.”

For information about the LAJHL, e-mail 

Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel gets Israeli flair

Like many good-looking newcomers to Los Angeles, Offer — with two F’s — Nissenbaum has a burning ambition.

It’s not to become a marquee idol, but rather, at age 50, to play goalie for one of the city’s amateur hockey teams.

That is, if he can break loose from his day (and frequently night) job as the new managing director of the Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills, which is within shouting distance of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, owned by fellow Israeli army veteran Beny Alagem.

With 200 guest rooms, the Peninsula — one of an international group of five luxury hotels owned by Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Ltd. — is certainly not the largest hotel in the city, but it hosts more than its share of celebrities and A-list events.

“We are the only hotel in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills with a rating of five diamonds from Mobil and five stars from AAA,” said Nissenbaum, who came to the hotel nine months ago.

Like any other top executive in the hotel business — Nissenbaum prefers the term hospitality business — one of his key jobs is to sell the uniqueness of his enterprise to the community.

So his public relations consultant recently invited a reporter to drop in and meet both the managing director and his father; the latter was in town for a visit from Israel.

Joseph Nissenbaum is 80 years old, a survivor of the Holocaust and three Israeli wars, whose life and experiences have marked the outlook and careers of Offer and his two siblings.

“I think one aspect is that we were more driven and we matured earlier than most children,” the younger Nissenbaum observed.

Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Foundation videotaped Joseph Nissenbaum’s story some years ago in Israel, and one purpose of this visit was to take a look at the four-hour interview.

To condense his long and dramatic story, Joseph was born in the East German city of Leipzig, and when he was 10 years old, his life was upended by Kristallnacht.

His father, a native of Poland, was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and the following month young Joseph was spirited out of the country via the Kindertransport to find shelter in a Belgian orphanage.

There he lived in relative safety, even after the German conquest, until 1943. But as the Nazi vise tightened, Joseph first worked in a factory and then lived underground with the help of the Belgian resistance movement.

Liberated in late 1944, the 17-year-old Joseph made it to Palestine, worked in a kibbutz, and in 1947 joined the underground Haganah. Fighting as a rifleman in the War of Independence, under the command of a young officer named Ariel Sharon, Joseph was shot in the leg.

The medic who bandaged his wound felt sorry for the family-less young soldier, invited Joseph to his home and introduced him to his sister, Judith. As in all good stories, Joseph and Judith were married shortly afterwards.

In 1956, Joseph was called up again, fought as a sharpshooter in the Sinai campaign, and picked up his rifle once more for the Six-Day War.

By that time, in 1967, Offer was 10 years old and he remembers vividly digging trenches and taping up windows in anticipation of the Arab onslaught.

Finally out of uniform, Joseph started to work for El Al Airlines, became a controller and was transferred to Toronto.

“The Holocaust shaped my character,” Joseph said. “I’m not completely sane; there’s a sense of guilt in surviving when so many others died. I find solace in being alone.”

In Canada, Offer picked up his accent-free English and passion for hockey, but knew nothing about his father’s experiences under Nazi rule. However, when his sister, Orna, now a television and movie producer, started questioning her father about his past, the story gradually came out and had a deep impact on young Offer.

“Being the son of a survivor, seeing your father’s struggles, affects you emotionally,” Offer said. “I once had to go to Germany on business, but to this day I will not buy anything German.”

In 1978, after studying hospitality management at an American college, it was Offer’s turn to join the Israeli army for three years with an elite intelligence unit.

After discharge, he left for New York to start his career. On arrival, a U.S. immigration official with an odd sense of humor made young Nissenbaum an offer he couldn’t refuse and added an “F” to the given name, “Ofer.”

In his first American hotel job, he worked for two years under the tyrannical Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean,” notorious for terrorizing her employees. From that experience, Nissenbaum drew the lesson that “management by fear and intimidation doesn’t work.”

Nissenbaum, now a boss himself at the Peninsula, is a strong believer in a cooperative, counter-Helmsley management style.

“I think of myself more as a mentor than a boss,” he said. “I meet monthly with 25 different employees, from the managers to the dishwasher, to see how we can improve operations. Every employee has a special insight and I believe if you treat your staff right, they will treat the guests right.”

Last month, he personally barbecued all the steaks at an outing for his 420 employees.

In New York, Nissenbaum was active — and recognized by — the American Jewish Committee, Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces and American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

He intends to become equally involved in the Los Angeles community once he’s settled in and has organized his workaholic working hours. Nissenbaum, his wife and their three children, ranging in age from 3 to 12, live in the Benedict Canyon area and are members of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.

Asked about the effect of the floundering economy on his business, Nissenbaum responded that while no one was immune to the downturn, the impact on the Peninsula has been minimal so far.

“Most of our guests are of high net worth,” he said. “They may be a little more careful about ordering a $1,000 bottle of wine, but they’re not going to fly coach or stay at a motel.”

Bulldog on the Ice

Ethan Lee Fougner, a 7-year-old hockey player from Valencia, is our May Athlete of the Month.

The call of the ice was so strong for Fougner that his mother, Lori, went into labor while attending a Los Angeles Kings third-round playoff game in May 1993.

Fougner first took group hockey lessons at the North Hills Iceoplex at 2 1/2 years old. His skill and enthusiasm for the game were such that he subsequently joined the Mini Mites and started taking private lessons. Three years later, he moved up to the in-house Mites league.

Fougner’s ability to score more than one hat trick per game encouraged his parents to seek a team more in keeping with his skill level. After several tryouts, Fougner was signed to the Ventura Mariners. The second-grader quickly earned the nickname “Bulldog” for his tenacity and played during L.A. Kings intermissions on their last night at the Great Western Forum and first night at Staples Center.

Fougner attends Heschel Day School during the school year and Camp Valley Chai at the North Valley Jewish Community Center during the summer, and he plays baseball and roller hockey for fun. His goal is to be the best hockey player in the NHL, despite people telling him that there aren’t many Jewish athletes. Recently, Fougner was inspired when he read in the March 23 Jewish Journal that Kings defenseman Mathieu Schneider is Jewish.

Keep an eye out for this hat-trick superstar.


The Journal will regularly feature coverage of sports in the Jewish community in these pages.

We will feature profiles of local athletes and major sports figures, standings and news for local Maccabi, school and intramural teams, and stories that focus on issues surrounding sports in the community.

Please send your team scores and news to Ari Morguelan, who will coordinate our sports coverage.

To submit story ideas, scores, team news and suggestions for "Athlete of the Week," contact Ari at (213) 368-1661 ext. 107, fax him at (213) 368-1684 or e-mail him at

Now play ball!

The Jewish King

In the heat of a 1991 match, a player for the Buffalo Sabers called then-Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Schneider a “Jew boy.” It was the first and only time Schneider had ever experienced anything remotely anti-Semitic in the NHL.

The comment — an attempt to tap into Schneider’s on-ice mean streak — initially enraged Schneider, but he kept his cool, avoided a penalty and settled it the way most hockey players do — he checked him into the sideboards in future games. “Every time I played against him after that,” Schneider said, “I went after him as much as I could.”

Schneider, No. 10 for the Los Angeles Kings, has been playing hockey since he was 4 years old. His father Sam, a youth hockey coach who played the game while growing up in Rhode Island, made sure that Schneider always got the best training available.

“You’re taught from the time you’re a kid to be mean out there and have an edge,” said 31-year-old Schneider. “That helps you to be more successful. Unless you can score 50 goals, you have to be like that.”

In addition to influencing Schneider’s professional development, Sam also had a tremendous impact on his Jewish identity, which has become increasingly important to Schneider in recent years. Though Schneider spent his youth on the ice instead of in Hebrew school, Sam took him to High Holiday services and raised him to “live a good clean life.”

While New York-born Schneider is no stranger to Los Angeles, locally his name remains familiar only to hockey and hard-core Jewish sports fans. He is one of the Kings’ most valuable players, the NHL’s top Jewish scorer and arguably the greatest Jewish player in the league’s history.

There are currently only three other Jewish players in the NHL — Steve Dubinsky (Chicago Blackhawks), Jeff Halpern (Washington Capitals) and Ronne Stern (San Jose Sharks) — and nine on minor league teams.

Schneider, a Stanley Cup veteran, was part of the team that brought gold home from the 1996 World Cup, represented America in the 1998 Olympics and wants to play Salt Lake City in 2002. During Wayne Gretzky’s last game, he helped the Great One score the final goal of his career.

Raised in West New York and Toms River, N.J., Schneider first experienced the joy of skating when Sam took him to Rockefeller Center at the age of 3.

Schneider’s mother, Aline, a French-Canadian from Thetford Mines, Quebec, converted to Judaism to marry his father. (The couple divorced in 1981, but Aline continues to identify as a Jew.)

Schneider competed against his French-Canadian cousins during family trips to New England, and Sam oversaw his training until he was old enough to attend Mount Saint Charles Academy in Rhode Island, a private Catholic high school with a top-ranked hockey program. “I actually learned the most about Judaism in my world religion class there,” Schneider said.

Before signing with the Kings, Schneider had spent four off-seasons living in Santa Monica and regularly worked out with former Kings defenseman Rob Blake at Gold’s Gym. It was his friendship with Blake that helped seal a one-year, $2 million contract with the Kings, with an option for the 2001-02 season.

For Schneider, whose attitude off the ice is markedly laid back, the beach life of Southern California is a perfect fit.

He appreciates that Los Angeles, like other towns he’s played for — Toronto, Montreal and New York — has a large Jewish community. “There’s definitely a connection between Jews wherever you go,” he said. “You immediately feel at home.”

In Montreal, he lived “right in the Jewish area of town.” In New York, Schneider served as a spokesperson for Tay-Sachs testing, rode a cherry picker to light the first candle of what he described as “the world’s largest menorah” in front of a Long Island temple, and joked with fellow Rangers that the NHL Christmas break should be a Chanukah break to allow for more days off.

“The older I get, the more I think about religion,” said Schneider, who married Toronto native Shannon Snider in 1999.

Shannon isn’t Jewish, but she’s been heavily influenced by her husband’s growing exploration of his Jewish heritage and wants to convert. “This summer we’re planning on going to Hebrew school together,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s strong desire to raise his son, 3-month-old Mathieu Jr., as a Jew has also contributed to his wife’s plans for conversion.

The couple recently purchased a home in Manhattan Beach, where they’ll continue living after Schneider retires in the next five years, even if the Kings don’t pick up his option for 2001-02.

Schneider said he’s probably going to seek a job in personal training after his hockey career is over, and the family will eventually join a congregation when his life settles. “I enjoy temple. I probably wouldn’t go on a weekly basis, but I would definitely go on the High Holidays and be part of the community.”

Discount tickets are still available for the first Jewish Journal Kings
Night, Thurs., March 29, at 7:30 p.m. For more information or reservations, call
Marc Entin at (213) 742-7187 or e-mail