‘X’ Marks the Spot for Gold Medal

The Jewish News
Steve Stein

Steve Stein

Jaxon Perlmutter has had a great summer.

The 17-year-old Bloomfield Hills resident was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. junior boys (ages 15-18) hockey team last month at the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Road to gold
Results of the U.S. junior boys hockey team’s games at the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel:

  • July 9: USA 12, Israel 0 (double round-robin).
  • July 11: USA 3, Canada 2 (double round-robin).
  • July 12: USA 5, Israel 2 (double round-robin).
  • July 13: USA 7, Canada 6 (double round-robin).
  • July 16: USA 5, Canada 2 (championship).

Note: Games were played with three 20-minute periods.

Make that the undefeated gold-medal winning team. The U.S. team won all five of its games, winning four double round-robin games before beating Canada 5-2 for the championship.

Pais Arena Jerusalem was the Maccabiah Games’ hockey venue.

The arena is home to the Hapoel Jerusalem team of the Israeli Basketball Premiere League. Former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire plays for that team.

“I got to use Stoudemire’s locker,” Perlmutter said.

Permutter also got to visit many of the important sights in Israel, represent the U.S. and the play the sport he loves during his trip.

The U.S. team won the gold medal even though it didn’t have many practices.

There were two practices in Philadelphia, Pa., before the team flew from Newark, N.J., to Tel Aviv, a few practices on a small rink in Tel Aviv while the team was touring, and two practices at Pais Arena before competition began.

That’s not a lot of time together on the ice for players who wanted to win a gold medal, but Perlmutter said it didn’t matter.

“We had a lot in common,” he said. “We’re Jews, and we love playing hockey. That made it easy to connect.”

Permutter said the team had two goals and achieved both.

“Goal 1A was to have a good time. Goal 1B was to win a gold medal,” he said.

“I don’t think it was a big surprise that we won the gold medal. We had a lot of good players, many from prep schools, and we took the tournament seriously.”

Beating Canada three times was particularly sweet for Perlmutter, who lived in Toronto until moving to Bloomfield Hills with his family three years ago.

There were 21 players on the U.S. roster. Perlmutter, a 6-foot-1, 160-pounder, was one of 12 defensemen along with seven forwards and two goalies. He had seven assists during the tournament.

Perlmutter said most U.S. players came from the New York-New Jersey area. He was the lone player from Michigan.

He wasn’t able to attend tryouts for the U.S. team in June 2016 in Philadelphia because of another hockey commitment, but film clips and coaches’ recommendations got him on the roster.

Hockey players love to give their teammates nicknames, and Perlmutter’s unusual first name made him an easy target for his U.S. teammates.

“X,” he said when asked what his teammates and coaches called him.

“I like that nickname. I’ve been mostly called things like, ‘Perl,’” he said.

This was Perlmutter’s second trip to Israel. The first was a decade ago for his brother’s bar mitzvah.

An incoming senior at Bloomfield Hills High School, Perlmutter plans to return to his high school hockey team this winter.

He played travel hockey for the Michigan Ice Hawks last year. He was on his high school team as a sophomore.

Perlmutter hopes club hockey at the University of Michigan is in his future. His brother Jake, 22, is a U-M grad and his brother Jamie, 20, is a senior at U-M.

With a 3.9 grade-point average, Perlmutter certainly is strong enough academically to be accepted into U-M.

About 7,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries joined 2,500 Israeli athletes at the 20th Maccabiah Games, an Olympics-style event. It ran from July 4-18.

Held every four years, the Maccabiah Games is the world’s third-largest sports event.

Please send sports news to stevestein502004@yahoo.com.

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