NHL Hockey’s Florida Panthers’ victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, December 16, made it into the record books, and Chanukah on Ice was a big part of it.
Nick Bjugstad’s goal in the 20th round capped off a record-setting shootout that took more than 20 minutes, and gave Florida the win over the Washington Capitals.
But a bigger story that took place that evening was the South Florida Jewish community celebrating the miracle and message of Chanukah on center ice with a spectacular kindling of the Menorah.
In fact, NBC Sports, when showing the night’s highlights of the record-setting game on national TV, included Chanukah On Ice and the lighting of the Menorah.
Billed Chanukah on Ice, the BB&T Center in Sunrise transformed into an igloo filled with activities celebrating the Festival of Lights and recognizing the Jewish community.
“To celebrate the first night of Chanukah in such a historic fashion and such a historic game is truly special,” exclaimed Rabbi Pinny Andrusier of Chabad of Florida and one of the event organizers.
The remarkable evening began with thousands of Jewish fans making their way to the giant JetBlue Tarmac to receive their free colorful ‘Chanukah on Ice’ t-shirt and enjoy the pre-game festivities – which included bounce houses, inflatable rides, games and face painting. Event sponsor Winn Dixie distributed delicious Kosher Chanukah cookies to every guest.
Rabbi Shuey Biston, who brought a large group from his community in Parkland, was invited to take the opening ceremonial slap shot, and Cantor Yossi Lebovics was honored with the singing of the National Anthem. Chanukah displays and greetings flashed on the ‘jumbotron’ all night long, and Jewish music filled the arena throughout the game.
Highlighting the evening though, was the incredible Menorah Lighting Ceremony that took place on the ice during the first intermission of play. Florida Panthers’ Executive Eric Kussin was joined by Rabbi Chaim and Eli Lipskar and select sponsors to light the first candle. The 9-foot Menorah was lit with the official torch of the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games, which will take place this summer in Broward County, Florida. Carrying the torch onto the ice were JCC Maccabi chairpersons Scott Ehrlich and Lori Green.
Rabbi Pinny delivered to the nearly 10,000 in attendance a short holiday message of ‘light over darkness’ and a prayer for everlasting ‘peace and unity.’ Chazzan Yossi Lebovics sang the Menorah blessings.
Also joining on the ice with a beautiful hand crafted Menorah was Shira Azulay, 10, from Coral Springs. Shira won Florida’s Menorah Building Contest and presented her award winning menorah the next evening to Florida Governor Rick Scott in Tallahassee.
During the second intermission, two teams disguised as the ancient Greeks and Maccabes took to the ice for a humorous challenge of Broom Hockey. In typical Chanukah fashion, it was once again the Maccabes defeating the Greeks.
Also entertaining the crowd during the second stoppage of play was the energetic troupe Oif Simchas, with lead singer Yishai Lapidot. The popular group flew in from Israel for the event, and performed a post game concert for the thousands of fans celebrating the victory of Chanukah and the record-setting victory of the Florida Panthers.
Photos by Netta-Ann Twito of N.a.t.ural Imaging and others