Repping gold and winning gold: Suffolk’s Bovarnick reflects on Team USA experience


Photo Courtesy of Jarrett Bovarnick

Jarrett and the rest of Team USA after winning Gold at the Maccabiah Games in July

When people think of athletes who play for Team USA, they usually think of professional athletes going beyond their leagues and going for Gold, but Suffolk University men’s hockey goalie Jarret Bovarnick showed that you don’t have to go pro to play for your country.

Bovarnick, a senior at Suffolk, played hockey for Team USA in the Maccabiah Games in Israel this past summer, winning Gold along the way after a 5-1 victory over Team Canada.

The Maccabiah Games was formed in 1948 and aims to build “Jewish pride through sports,” both domestically and internationally.

“Initially how it started was my dad approached me with the opportunity that he had heard from a close friend that there are these games in Israel, sort of like an Olympic-style for Jewish athletes, so he signed me up for it,” Bovarnick said.

Jarret’s hunt for Gold started with a tryout in Pennsylvania, where he’d ultimately make the team and journey to Israel to play in the Maccabiah Games.

“I was very relieved […] and excited at the time. I don’t think it quite came to me, the opportunity that I had, until I was there and actually competing,” Jarret said. “I kinda found out about the team and was like ‘oh wow, that’s very exciting,’ and then when I went to training camp, I met the team, I got all of the Team USA apparel, and I met the group of people I would be staying with for the next month. It then became a very real situation and that’s when the adrenaline kicked in. I felt like I had this adrenaline rush for the entire month of July.”

Despite the exhilaration, Jarret remembered words of wisdom that one of his coaches, Adam Houli, told the team during their run for Gold, words that stick with him now, even after the Games.

“If you play as a team, you guys have teammates. If you win Gold, you guys have a brotherhood for the rest of your lives,” Bovarnick recalled his coach saying.

Bovarnick noted the accuracy of his coach’s words, saying how the team has a group chat together where they still chat with each other to plan trips and meet-ups.

Bovarnick looks back fondly on the Maccabiah Games and winning Gold for Team USA as one of his biggest accomplishments.

“Playing with ‘USA’ across the front of my chest on my jersey is one of the most amazing things I would say I could ever do. Sporting-wise, it was one of the best experiences I have had,” said Bovarnick.

In Israel, Bovarnick and Team USA were playing in front of packed crowds: something that often adds pressure on players to perform, but Bovarnick didn’t let the crowds faze him.

“I think that’s where I’m a little weird from the rest, I perform better under pressure and with a bigger crowd watching. I found that playing in front of the fans gave me a little edge of confidence that you don’t normally have if the stands aren’t filled,” Bovarnick said.

Not only did those crowds not faze him, the packed crowds in attendance to see Team USA play helped make the Maccabiah Games one of Bovarnick’s most memorable moments throughout his hockey career.

“It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had…” said Bovarnick. “It goes to show how we celebrated after, and just some of the comments from some of my teammates is that we all did that together and it was one of the greatest experiences we’ve had to celebrate with [the crowd]. I think we all just loved to play in front of a crowd that was so praising of the United States.”

Coming back to Suffolk, Bovarnick hopes that his experience playing for Team USA in Israel helps contribute to the hockey team’s success this upcoming season.

“I think playing in the games this summer was a big stepping stone in my hockey career. It was amazing to win something with such a special group of people and I feel like I’ve grown with the hockey team at Suffolk,” said Bovarnick. “I feel like we could do something special as a team this upcoming season. Going to Israel, learning how to win and having that winning culture, I think I could bring it to the team this year and help give us a successful season.” 

This trip to Israel with Team USA also facilitated a deeper religious connection for Bovarnick, bringing him closer to his Jewish faith.

“I had always gone to Temple for the High Holidays and that was just with my family, but going to Israel for the first time, it made me want to get more in touch with Judaism. I’ve started to go through Shabbat dinners every Friday night,” Bovarnick said. “Visiting places like the Western Wall and going to Mount Masada and visiting the Dead Sea showed me how cool the culture I had of being Jewish and the country I basically have citizens’ rights to for being Jewish was.”

After his incredible experience playing in the Maccabiah Games, Bovarnick hopes to head back to Israel some day without the pressure of competing for his country.

Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeDiminoSU