ISRAELI NATIONAL TEAM FORWARD ELIEZER SHERBATOV PLAYS IN THE 2017 IIHF CONTINENTAL CUP FINAL WITH KAZAKH CHAMPION BEIBARYS ATYRAU. PHOTO: MAX PATTIS
He was born in Israel as son of Russian Jews and later played in Canada, France and now Kazakhstan.
And he scored a goal that went viral during a game against Greece at the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III in Cape Town, South Africa. (See video.)
Eliezer Sherbatov was a junior at that time in his second season in Canada’s QMJHL. After that he became a professional player first in France and now in Kazakhstan. He joined Beibarys Atyrau in 2014 and has become the team’s scoring leader last season.
“For a guy born in Israel it’s pretty tough to grow up in the hockey world but with the help of my family we did something. After growing up in Israel we moved to Canada and I was playing in Israel and Canada back and forth. I represent Israel in the World Championships, I go around the world so I’m pretty happy,” the 25-year-old looks back at what he has reached so far, hoping that the best is still to come.
Sometimes he’s still being reminded about his goal. Like here during the Continental Cup in Ritten.
“I get these questions. It’s still in the top-10 of TSN. I’m pretty happy that I scored that goal. It went around the world. But it doesn’t define me as a player. I like to be known as a skilled player but also as a tough player who works hard,” the native of Rehovot, 20 kilometres south of Tel Aviv, says.
Sherbatov has lived in different environments with different languages and says it’s a good question what he considers himself the most. His teammates gave him the nickname Yevreichik, which can be translated as the Hebrew or Jewish guy.
“The guys on the team make fun of me a bit because when I need to be Israeli I’m Israeli, if I need to be Russian I’m Russian and if I need to be Canadian I’m Canadian. But in my heart I’m Israeli. I’m born in Israel from parents who were born in Russia as Russian Jews,” he describes his feelings.
In Kazakhstan he doesn’t have too much problems coping with language and culture having spoken Russian since childhood. Other than him, who’s listed as Russian in the league, the Beibarys Atyrau roster mostly consists of Kazakh and Russian players plus two Czechs and a Slovak. A pattern not unusual in the top Kazakh league where the level and money has grown in recent years.
“I love to play in Kazakhstan,” he says and explains his reason and goal: “My goal is to be the first Israeli to play in the KHL. I want to put Israel on the map in the KHL, I want to make history. Going through Kazakhstan in the system around Russia was something I spoke about with my agent.”
Sherbatov also attended a training camp with Latvian KHL team Dinamo Riga. He didn’t make the KHL yet but is confident he’ll do so next year.
Also this season he’s Beibarys Atyrau’s scoring leader. In 31 games he has scored 10 goals and collected 31 points.
“It’s my third year in Atyrau. The fans are amazing, they love me, I love them, they always come to the games. We won the championship last year. It’s a new club, a new hockey city. They won three championships in seven years,” he says about his current home. He has used to live there and can also tell whose portrait is on the jersey and club logo. “It’s Sultan Beibars,” he said. A Sultan in Egypt in the 13th century who fought the Crusaders and Mongols and is admired as a hero in Kazakhstan.
Just when he will play for the Israeli national team again is something he doesn’t know due to his busy schedule with Beibarys Atyrau. Last time he played at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B where he led his team in scoring.
“The World Championships are in April and I always play in the finals of the playoffs in Kazakhstan,” he says. Israel is seeded in the Division II Group B that will be played in Auckland, New Zealand, 4-10 April.
But for now Sherbatov’s full focus is anyway on the Continental Cup where he gets another chance to shine in international play with his Kazakh team.