Chad Goldberg, a hockey player at Tufts University, traveled to Israel in 2013 for the Maccabiah Games, known as the “Jewish Olympiad.” The event, held the year after the Summer Olympics, brings together the best Jewish athletes from around the world.
His twin sister Chelsey Goldberg, a Northeastern hockey player, also wanted to compete in Israel. Her application to play alongside her brother on the US men’s team was denied. There was no other way for her because women’s hockey wasn’t part of the competition.
She decided to do something about it.
Nine years later, Goldberg is in Israel for the upcoming 21st Maccabiah as a player on the US women’s premier hockey team – a team she helped create.
“It lit a fire in me to make that happen on the women’s side,” says Goldberg, a 5ft 6in forward who has been playing professionally since her career ended in the Northeast in 2015. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take. I didn’t know what it would bring. But I was determined to bring women’s hockey to Israel.”
Goldberg began her mission by contacting Devra Schorr, Maccabi USA’s Ice Hockey Co-Chair, who works to build Jewish pride through sports. Schorr helped revive men’s ice hockey as an event at the Maccabiah Games in 2013. She began researching potential sponsors and players while also building support from the Maccabi World Union, which oversees the Maccabiah Games. The 2017 event brought 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries to Israel, making it the third largest sporting event in the world (after the Summer Olympics and the Pan American Games).
“Chelsey kept saying, ‘Why can’t I play?’ We’ve had these discussions several times,” says Schorr, whose daughter played hockey at Boston University. “I told her, ‘I’m working on it, and as soon as I get the green light, you’ll be the first one I call.’ And she was the first one I called.”
That US team 22 players and two coaches met for the first time in Philadelphia over the weekend of July 4th. After practicing four times over two days, they flew to Israel with plans to practice the next week while touring the country’s historic sites as part of the Maccabi USA-sponsored Israel Connect program.
“When you become an athlete for Maccabi USA, you’re not just there for the sport,” says Schorr. “You are there for the entire experience.”
They will face off against Canada and Israel in a three-team tournament at the Maccabiah Games, taking place July 12-26.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” said US head coach Justin Levin, a veteran men’s coach at Drexel University and other Philadelphia-area programs. “It’s bigger than just the stuff on the ice. We go there to compete and don’t get me wrong, when we’re on that ice we want to be successful. But we understand that it is a big deal and bigger things are at stake.”
Goldberg, who overcame two broken legs while in college, helped win two beanpots as a husky and earned a berth on the Hockey East All-Academic Team in 2012-13. She spent three of her seasons in the Northeast alongside Kendall Coyne Schofield, who received the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for Best Player in Women’s College Hockey.
Goldberg’s career was curtailed by the demise of women’s professional hockey in North America. She has competed in Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association flagship events while working full-time in commercial real estate and property management in her hometown of Los Angeles. She is a double husky with a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s degree in athletic leadership.
“I was just training on my own,” says Goldberg, who was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. “I made it work.”
Goldberg’s first trip to Israel was a sporting, religious and cultural highlight. “I’ve never been to Israel,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be part of my birthright journey, but because I’ve been so immersed in elite-level hockey, I’ve never really had that much time. I was lucky enough to be sponsored – I am very, very grateful to my sponsors for that.”
Goldberg is fully aware that she is helping to advance the sport.
“I’m passionate about promoting the game of women’s hockey,” she says. “I’m very, very excited and proud to represent Team USA in the first few games.”
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