NORTH CANTON  This summer, Jewish athletes from all over then world will travel to Israel for the World Maccabiah Games.

Among them will be Zack Richterman, of North Canton, who will make the trip as a member of the USA Junior Boys ice hockey team. Richter man, 17, attends Culver Military Academy in Indiana and is excited about the chance to both represent his country and take part in an event that ties in to his cultural heritage.

“It’s a really unique opportunity to play for your country and it’s not often you get to do that,” Richterman said. “To do it by playing hockey is a great experience.”

The trip will include a one-week tour with the Under-18 team through Israel, visiting various cultural and religious sites. Richterman, a left winger on the ice, has been paying hockey since he was six years old and first laced up the skates the the Center Ice Complex in Jackson.

He continued playing for various teams as he grew up, including a team based in Wooster when he was eight and when he turned nine, the Cleveland Barons youth hockey team. He’s played for clubs and schools and attended Jackson Local Schools through middle school, after which he transferred to Culver.

Hockey has been a part of his life for virtually his entire school career and the love of the game continued when he enrolled at Culver. The chance to try out for the U-18 team was one that Rictherman knew could both grow his hockey career and provide him with chances to see and experiences things he otherwise might never encounter.

“The tryouts were last summer in Philadelphia and my dad found out about them,” Richterman said. “There were about 90 kids. They had two practices and a few games, but some other guys were able to submit a highlight video to be considered if they couldn’t make it there.”

 The World Maccabiah Games will take place July 4-18 in Israel. Maccabiah USA has been selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee as a multi-sport organization, meaning hockey will be one of several sports in which the U.S. will send a team.

Maccabi USA will send a total of more than 1,100 athletes and they will join an estimated 10,000 Jewish athletes representing 80 countries in 43 different sports. The Maccabi USA hockey team will be coached by Jon Sandas and Matt Cohen. The team includes players from nine different states, but Richterman is the only Ohio athlete on the roster. Many of his teammates hail from New York and others are from as far away as California.

The Maccabiah Games started in 1932 and have welcomed more than 62,000 athletes in what the organization describes as “a celebration of Jewish strength and solidarity.”

For Richterman, the trip is a chance to compete against a high level of international competition and that could help raise his profile when it comes to playing hockey collegiately once his Culver career ends. However, the dream of playing college hockey is one he plans to weigh alongside choosing the right school academically.

“I would love to play in college and I'll have to see how it all plays out,” Richterman said. “The most important thing is to go to a good school academically and I would put that ahead of hockey. Academics are the most important thing.”

College is still a ways off for now, but in a hockey journey that has logged many miles with several different teams, Richterman is preparing to head off on his longest trip to date. Once the current school year end, he and his Maccabi USA hockey teammates will begin the final preparations for their trip to a country with which each of their families has a shared history.

It will be a chance to experience the Jewish culture and the different dynamics that make Israel one of the most interesting countries in the world from cultural, political and religious standpoints. Winning a medal is one of the goals for the squad, but for Rictherman and his teammates, there’s a lot more to this trip and the memories they bring home will likely extend far beyond the ice. 

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