A Maccabiah Family
In 1973, the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association made a big splash. They signed not one, but three members of the Howe family. Taking to the ice that season was 52-year-old legend Gordie as well as his sons Mark and Marty. Two decades later, Seattle Mariners fans witnessed something just as improbable: father and son, Ken Griffey Sr. and future Hall-of-Famer, Ken Griffey Jr., hit back-to-back homeruns.
Looking back on his Hall of Fame career, the elder Howe referred to that season with his sons as his the greatest accomplishment and most exciting moment of his five decades in hockey.
This summer, Toronto’s Richard and Karen Pilosof will experience a very similar thrill – for a second time – at the 20th Maccabiah Games.
Richard, Karen and son, Eli, will all be representing Team Canada in separate sports. Richard and Karen will be taking part in Masters Tennis and Cycling, respectively, while Eli will be lacing up his skates for the Junior Hockey team.
Competing as a family in the Games is a unique opportunity that the Pilosofs are eagerly anticipating, but, not an unfamiliar one. At the 2013 Maccabiah Games, Richard and Karen were joined by their eldest son, Jordan, a member of the wrestling team.
“The 2013 Games were fantastic, but being in Israel and representing Canada alongside Jordan was the most memorable moment of our whole experience,” echoed both parents.
With the memories of 2013 fresh in their mind, four years ago, Richard and Karen had hoped to be able to return to the 20th Maccabiah with Eli. Both knew that at 14-years-old, these Games would mark his first and only opportunity to participate as a Junior athlete.
Eli’s determination and raw hockey abilities led him to crack a very competitive Team Canada roster, making the skilled right-winger the youngest member of the group.
“I’m excited to play against competition from around the world and experience Israel with new friends and my family,” said Eli. “One day, my goal is to play NCAA hockey and this will be a great stepping stone.”
A confident demeanour and intense training schedule suggests that Eli is up to the task of playing against older athletes. Fresh off a trip to Philadelphia for the World Select Invitational, a tournament for the best players in his age group, Eli is eager to make his presence felt in Jerusalem.
Fortunately for Eli, he has three role models to look up to for both confidence and support.
Richard, a former University of Coastal Carolina tennis player, and Karen, are elite athletes in their own right. Karen is Team Canada’s only female cyclist, whose preparation for the Games began in October and included riding the mountains of Sicily.
Both agreed that the biggest challenge of competing in Israel is the extreme heat; a concern that Eli joked he was not too worried about.
Competition aside, the family is looking beyond the Games to the experience of being in Israel, a place very special to their hearts. In addition to supporting Maccabi Canada, the family is actively involved in Brothers for Life, a non-profit that supports wounded Israeli soldiers.
“This is going to be a very special experience for our whole family,” added Richard. “My mother, Eli’s grandmother, will be coming to cheer us all on as well as we’re going to spend some time with my family in Haifa.”
Yet, when asked what Richard and Karen were most looking forward to at the Maccabiah Games, they didn’t skip a beat and turned towards Eli.
“It’s going to be watching Eli play, representing his country and the spirit of Judaism.”