DJN Article from 1993
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

Detroit Jews have a long relationship with hockey.

I really enjoyed JN sportswriter Steve Stein’s recent article about Eric Israel, a local Jewish kid playing for the Rapid City (S.D.) Rush in the East Coast Hockey League. Israel is a tough and resilient defenseman and, obviously, loves the game.

Reading about Israel, I wondered about the relationship between Detroit’s Jewish community and hockey. The William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History provided the answer. To quote Frank Beckman’s sports column in the Nov. 14, 1947, issue of the Jewish Chronicle: “Yes, there are Jews in hockey.” (Note: this Frank Beckman reported on sports much earlier than WJR radio’s sports legend Frank Beckmann.)

Detroit Jews have a long relationship with the sport. Hockey is mentioned on 3,268 pages in the Davidson Archive; the Detroit Red Wings on 398 pages.

The earliest mention of hockey is in “The Jewish Girl at College,” an article in the April 26, 1918, issue of the Chronicle. It discusses the increasing participation of Jewish women in a myriad of college activities, from student leadership to sports, including “hockey” (although, I suspect this is a reference to field hockey).

There are many references to our hometown Detroit Red Wings. It was announced in the June 14, 1957, JN that the legendary Gordie Howe would speak at Beth Aaron Synagogue. There was a nice story about Jewish Detroiter Al Nagler in the April 2, 1948, Chronicle.

After a 10-year hiatus, the Red Wings were going back on the radio and Nagler would call the play-by-play. He was a forerunner of current announcer for televised Red Wings games, Jewish Sports Hall of Famer Ken Daniels.

Over the years, the JN published numerous announcements for trips to Red Wings games organized by Jewish communal groups. If you attended a game on one of these excursions over the past two decades, you also heard a wonderful voice sing the National Anthem, Jewish Detroiter Karen Newman.

Two other Red Wings-related stories were interesting. “Field of Dreams” in the Oct. 1, 1993, issue of the JN is about police officer Rich Markowitz, dentist Allen Tuchklaper and investment counselor Leonard Weiss attending a fantasy camp with veteran Red Wings. A thrill, no doubt. In the Sept. 11, 1998, issue, there is “The Cats with the Hats” about Mark Kellman and his uncle David Kellman, the creators of the foam “Wing Nut!” hats. What a great invention!

Then, there are stories about the rare Jewish hockey players in the National Hockey League (NHL), who exemplify the pinnacle of success. A report in the July 17, 1987, issue of the Looking Back: Jews & Hockey is about Steven Richmond, only Jewish player in the NHL at that time. “Wandering Star” in the Feb. 19, 2006, issue is about then-Red Wing Mathieu Schneider, who over a long career logged 1,289 games in the NHL.

Perhaps the best story about a hockey player is “Packing a Punch” in the Oct. 23, 1987, issue of the JN. It is about our own Jewish NHLer, left-winger Mike Hartman, a product of West Bloomfield High School, who played nearly 400 games for various teams in 13 seasons in the NHL. Hartman is also another Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Famer.

So, Beckman was right. Jews and hockey go together. Go Wings!

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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