In an unprecedented Jewish sports spectacle which now promises to become an annual affair, the first Kiddush Cup took place February 12 at the Bell Centre – home to the Montreal Canadiens – and featured teams representing the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation (BIBA) and Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation TBDJ ended up winning a hard fought 6-5 decision, but it was the thousands of dollars raised for youth programming and community events for the two City of Côte Saint-Luc synagogues which was the most important result.
I would like to thank Martin Banoon Photography for some of the excellent shots here of the BIBA and TBDJ teams and of the opening ceremony.
The idea of the Kiddush Cup was conceived by Lawrence Witt, president of BIBA and a lawyer with the firm Heenan Blaikie and TBDJ vice-president Judah Aspler. Each player paid an unidentified fee to play. Funds also came in via ticket sales, silent auction bids, event sponsors and a family skate on the Bell Centre ice. Michel Lacroix, the true Canadiens public address announcer, introduced the starting lineup. They even had the familiar organ music in the background. Rabbis Reuben J. Poupko and Chaim Steinmetz of BIBA and TBDJ respectively served as coaches. The event co-chairs were Ted Quint and Warren Greenstone of TBDJ and David Diner and Alex Feld from BIBA.
Witt joked that even though BIBA was on the short end of the 6-5 loss, he plans on making a few minor off-season acquisitions to ensure that his club sips from the coveted Kiddush Cup after the 2013 rematch. “Next year, we may even produce a Jewish version of "24/6 - The Road to the Kiddush Cup," he said in reference to the popular HBO documentary which follows NHL teams participating in the outdoor Winter Classic.
Talk has already begun about a possible baseball game between the synagogue’s two teams. “This one will for the Seder Plate,” Witt notes.
“TBDJ came into this inaugural game as the underdogs, but keeping with Jewish tradition, faith and perseverance turned the story around and into a celebration that will last eight days,” added Aspler, who works for Microsoft. “We have no doubt that BIBA will be gunning for us next year, but we've got a team roadmap that will secure our hold on the coveted Kiddush Cup for generations.”
The RSM Richter Chamberland opening ceremony included Canadian and Israel national anthems interpreted by Cantors Yossi Fleischman (TBDJ) and Moishe Shur. The ceremonial puck drop was performed by local Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette and Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Dida Berku. Some 500 spectators were in attendance.
Scoring opened at the five minute mark of the first period with a Witt tip-in of a Russell Samuels shot from the point. TBDJ blew the game open in the second frame with a pair of goals by Evan Ellbogen and singles by Greenstone, Avi Miller, Lorne Svarc and Michael Ziegler. BIBA responded with goals by Jeremy Wallace, Howard Wallace and a pair by Oren Nahoum. BIBA pulled Goalie Jake Singal-Kohn in the last minute for the extra attacker, but Team BIBA was stymied by the stingy TBDJ netminder Shaya "Leather Larceny" Csillag, who drove in from New Jersey to play in the game (and drove back immediately after).
One of the goals went to a video replay but was declared a "good " upon review by referee Mark Gross.
Both teams had a practice last Saturday night Feb. 4th.
"This is was great community event," said Greenstone. "Playing hockey at the Bell Centre was a thrill for everyone involved. The kids who also had the opportunity to play had an amazing time as did all those who participated in the family skate. It was great way to spend a Sunday afternoon."
The adult game was broken up by a 15 minute kids (ages six to 10) contest and a 15 minute youth (ages 10 to 15) match.
Team BIBA's honourary captain was Israeli Consul General. Joel Lion. He wore the Israel National Hockey Team uniform and "played" for BIBA. “It was an amazing experience,” said Rabbi Steinmetz. “Everyone had fun at an enjoyable and competitive game. Of course I am proud of my coaching - in particular because I know so little about hockey. Now that I am unbeaten I’m working on my coaching memoir entitled: ‘The Rabbi's Way: How Studying the Talmud Can Make You into a Better Hockey Player, or at Least, Into a Better Person.’
We left the Bell Centre with our prayers for the Canadiens’ success.”
Svarc of TBDJ noted that the funniest moment of the day came when Consul General walked into the locker room and exclaimed ‘On the ice I have diplomatic immunity." He added how every kid who plays hockey dreams of playing in a professional arena. “They really brought out all the stops for the full experience,” he says.
Here are some video clips courtesy of Dida Berku: