Sporting records are usually made to be broken − but that’s not always the case.
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For example, Jewish sports fans anticipated Major League Baseball player Shawn Green breaking Hank Greenberg’s all-time Jewish career home-run record, but when he retired after the 2007 season he had 328 home-runs − just three shy of Greenberg’s 331 “round-trippers.”
Not so in ice hockey. Mathieu Schneider retired after the 2009-10 season, ending an illustrious career during which he won a Stanley Cup (NHL championship) with the Montreal Canadiens, was selected to two NHL All-Star games, won a gold medal with Team USA in the 1996 World Cup, and played on Team USA in the 1998 and 2006 Olympic Games. But quietly, Michael Cammalleri has been breaking some of his records.
Cammalleri, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, grew up in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Though he is of average size (5’9” or 1.75 meters, 185 pounds or 84 kg), he was good enough to be picked to play college hockey for the University of Michigan in 1999. After an excellent three-year stint there, he was ready to turn pro.
Cammalleri split his time between the Manchester (New Hampshire) Monarchs of the AHL at the
minor league level and the LA Kings of the NHL. But an inauspicious start in the top league left him relegated to an entire season with the Monarchs. In 2004-05 he totally dominated the action on the ice in Manchester, racking up 109 points (46 goals and 63 assists) in 79 games.
When he found himself back in the NHL with the Kings, Cammalleri was ready to prove himself, and did so by scoring 80 points (34 goals and 46 assists) in 81 games in the 2006-07 season. In 2008-09 he had his first tenure with the Calgary Flames, and posted his best numbers on the ice in his NHL career, with 82 points (39 goals and 43 assists) in 81 regular season games − records for a Jewish NHL player in a season.
Meanwhile, Schneider retired after a 21-year NHL career during which he compiled 743 points (223 goals and 520 assists) in 1,289 games.
Cammalleri played for the Montreal Canadiens before reigniting his career with the Flames, and though he’s contributed on the ice, he hasn’t replicated those numbers. He was closing in on Schneider’s career goals record for a Jewish player, but was sidelined with concussion earlier this season and entered a mini-scoring drought.
But on Monday, as the Flames lost to the Minnesota Wild, 2-3, Cammalleri found the net in the second period and scored his 14th goal of the season − and most importantly, his 224th career goal.
Though he has finally eclipsed Schneider’s record, with 479 points (224 goals and 255 assists) in 650 regular season games in the NHL, he still needs 264 points to catch up to the retired star’s career point total. Cammalleri turns 32 in June, so if he remains healthy, it is entirely possible.
His current salary, $7 million for the 2013-14 season, is the most ever earned by a Jewish NHL player, and earlier this week there were rumors about a possible trade involving the player.
Other currently active Jewish NHL players include Mike Brown (San Jose Sharks), Jeff Halpern (Phoenix Coyotes), Eric Nystrom (Nashville Predators) and Trevor Smith (Toronto Maple Leafs). There are many Jewish minor league players in the AHL, and brothers Adam and Michael Henrich are dominating the action in the UK for the Coventry Blaze of the EIHL. Evan Kaufmann, an American-born grandson of Holocaust survivors, plays professionally for Neurmberg of the DEL and is also a member of the German National Team.
And there are also Israeli citizens playing professional ice hockey. Max Birbraer, a member of Team Israel, has 46 points (17 goals and 29 assists) in 56 games for the Cardiff Devils of Britain’s EIHL. The Eizenman brothers − Oren, Alon and Erez − all played for Team Israel, and Oren has played in the AHL for parts of five seasons.