Detroit doesn’t have enough players for its own hockey team, so Brennan Gesend and Lucas Hutten will join players from other delegations to form a team.
It’s August 2019.
Detroit is hosting the annual JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest. Hundreds of teenage Jewish athletes and artists are in the area competing, creating and socializing.
Brennan Gesund and Lucas Hutten are playing for the Detroit “B” hockey team. They’re defensive partners and team leaders.
They’re having a great time even though their team isn’t winning because it’s facing teams with older and more experienced players.
Gesund and Hutten are looking forward to playing hockey for Detroit for as many as three more years before they become too old to participate in the Maccabi Games.
That opportunity was ripped away from them by a global pandemic.
Concerns about COVID-19 caused the JCC Association of North America, which organizes and conducts the Maccabi Games, to cancel the event in 2020 and 2021.
Those decisions were historic. The Maccabi Games had never been canceled since they began in 1982.
It’s now 2022. The dead of winter. But here’s a warm thought. There will be a Maccabi Games this summer in San Diego.
It looks like Detroit will have 22 athletes in California during the July 31 through Aug. 5 event.
Gesund and Hutten will be in San Diego for the Maccabi Games, playing hockey.
Detroit doesn’t have enough players for its own hockey team, so Gesend and Hutten will join players from other delegations to form a team.
That doesn’t matter.
“It’s my last year for the Maccabi Games. I want to go,” said Gesund, 15, a sophomore defenseman/forward on the Walled Lake Western High School hockey team.
“I love hockey. I play it anytime I can. It was so cool to play with and against other Jewish kids when the Maccabi Games were in Detroit. I want to do it again,” he said.
Hutten, 16, a junior forward on the Novi High School hockey team, echoed those sentiments.
“I understand why it happened, but it was disappointing to have two years of playing hockey in the Maccabi Games taken away from me,” he said.
“My family hosted two hockey players from Cleveland when the Maccabi Games were held here. That was great. I’m looking forward to staying with a host family when I go to San Diego.
“Participating in the Maccabi Games was fun [in 2019] because I got to meet a lot of other Jewish hockey players I otherwise would have never had the opportunity to meet,” he said.
Gesund and Hutten said they became friends through playing hockey for Detroit in the Maccabi Games three years ago.
Mark Berke was the coach of the Detroit “B” hockey team at the 2019 Maccabi Games.
He remembers Gesund and Hutten. He named Gesund the team’s captain and Hutten an alternate captain along with forward Spencer Werner.
“It was very, very, very easy to name those three kids the captain and alternate captains,” Berke said. “I saw their leadership qualities immediately and I could tell they were talented hockey players.
“Our team didn’t win any games and I think we scored only six goals in our five games. But that was a super fun team to coach and the parents were great.”
Gesund, a Commerce Township resident, and Hutten, who lives in Novi, each played travel hockey until they went to high school.
They enjoy playing hockey now for Walled Lake Northern and Novi, respectively.
“I love it. We have really good crowds for our home games at the Lakeland Ice Arena,” Gesund said.
Gesund said he was about 5-foot-2 and weighed 110 pounds when he played hockey for Detroit at the 2019 Maccabi Games.
He’s now 5-7, 130, not a big guy, “but I’m super quick on the ice, like a rocket,” he said with a laugh.
Hutten also isn’t one of the bigger guys on the ice when he plays for Novi. He’s 5-foot-8, 140.
Detroit athletes also will compete in 14U baseball, 14U boys basketball, 14U boys soccer, girls soccer, girls basketball, tennis, swimming and dance at the Maccabi Games in San Diego.
There also are opportunities for Detroit athletes to compete in 16U boys basketball and 16U baseball.
Detroit teens ages 13-16 interested in participating in the Maccabi Games should contact Detroit delegation head Karen Gordon at email@example.com.
There also is information at www.maccabidetroit.com.
All Maccabi Games participants in San Diego including athletes must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Host family members who can be vaccinated must be vaccinated.
Other COVID-19 mitigations will be announced later.
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