Nelson, BC - Daniel Spivak is representing Canada for the first time. The blue line stalwart of the OPJHL’s Stouffville Spirit is also the Canadian with the most international experience taking part in the World Junior A Challenge this week in Trail and Nelson, BC.
Seemingly contradictory statements, these two statements are both correct. Spivak (pronounced SPEE-vak), a defenceman with Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge, is representing Canada for the first time, but he has loads of international experience, having taken part in three World Championships and two major international tournaments ... as a member of Team Israel.
“When I was 15 or 16, Israel does a hockey tour to fundraise and they came through the Toronto area. I met them and introduced myself, so I could a chance to try out for the team. It wasn’t long after that I was at my first World Championship in Serbia.”
And that’s how an adventure in international hockey got started for the Thornhill (Ont.) resident and native of Natanya, Israel.
At his first World Championship (Division 2) in Serbia in 2005, he helped Israel get promoted to Division 1. At his second World Championship in 2006 in France, he admits to breaking out with a large smile, when he saw that he was lined up against NHLer Marco Sturm in a game against Germany. Sturm helped Germany rout Israel 11-2 in that game, as the international veteran had a hat trick.
Spivak is quick to note with another smile that he did manage to catch Sturm with his head down as he tried a wrap-around.
Spivak now has a third World Championship under his belt, at the Division 2 Worlds in Korea in 2007, the
Spartak Invitational Tournament in Moscow, and the World Jewish Hockey Tournament in July 2007 in Metulla,
(Interesting side note: the name of the hockey complex in Metulla: Canada Center)
This week in Trail and Nelson, Spivak is representing Canada and he couldn’t be prouder.
“I feel the exact same way playing with Israel and Canada. The same pride and everything. This (Canada) is where I grew up, where all my friends, family are. When I throw on the jersey, either Israel or Canada, I feel the same and I play as hard as I can.”
An international veteran at 19, it all must seem surreal for a family that arrived in Canada with little or no knowledge of hockey. His parents Zeev and Rakela emigrated to Canada when their son Daniel was still a baby. Their son has now represented his country of origin and his new country in its favourite sport, hockey. A sport that the family has embraced whole-heartedly.
“For my parents coming over to Canada, hockey here was like basketball or soccer in Israel. So they found the most popular sport and said ‘it’s winter time, it’s cold, go play some hockey – go try it out.’ We went to the store, picked up all the used equipment and threw it on. The first time, I was hanging onto the glass crying and I wanted to get off the ice. I ended up really liking it and have been playing hockey ever since.”
“My parents have really grown to love the sport. Even now, my little brothers are playing. So now my parents are running around, driving them to practices and games. I think they have sort of turned into super hockey parents.”
Spivak and his Canada East teammates face USA on Wednesday evening in Nelson. With a win, Canada East can avoid the quarter-finals and advance directly to the semi-finals.
Note: Zeev Spivak, Daniel’s father, played professional basketball in his native Israel ... Daniel Spivak is an assistant captain with the OPJHL’s Stouffville Spirit.