The IDF has recognized a hockey player as a “top athlete” for the first time. The military sports board has decided to present Yuval Rosenthal (19), an ice hockey phenom, this honor. This will allow him to postpone army service in favor of his sports career.

Rosenthal, a native of Kfar Saba, joined Israel’s professional ice hockey league when he was just 13. When he was 15, he joined the Banff Hockey Academy, one of the premier hockey training camps in the world.

Three years ago, Rosenthal scored three goals in just one game at the Hockey Championship in Mexico. He was elected as the MVP of the tournament and a gold medal for the Israeli national team that was promoted to the next level in world championship play.

It was fairly easy for Rosenthal to learn to skate and today, he’s ranked very highly in ice skating technique. Since it would be impossible for him to advance in his hockey career in Israel, if he were to come home and serve his army term now, he wouldn’t have been able to continue progressing in this area.

Yuval Rosenthal: continuing his career

Yuval Rosenthal: continuing his career

The status of “elite athlete” is a unique status granted to a select amount of Israeli athletes and allows them to postpone their army service for a number of years in order to enable them to continue developing professionally overseas. This is a unique status granted only to those considered “one in a million.” The first ever allocation of this status to a hockey player presents a breakthrough in the sport in Israel.
“There’s no greater honor for me than to know that the State is behind me,” Rosenthal told Channel 2 news. The CEO’s of the sports union and the ice hockey union in Israel are standing behind their decision to grant Rosenthal the prestigious status.

Rosenthal knows whom he owes the biggest debt of gratitude. “I’m most grateful to my parents, Dr. Ya’akov and Julia Rozenthal, who allowed me to pursue a dream that appeared so difficult to achieve from such a young age and who did all they could to help me turn it into reality,” he added.

“We’re happy for Yuval and for the other athletes we represented at the last forum,” said attorney Dvir who represented him before the army authorities. “The nine athletes we represented all received the special status and we’re proud of every one of them. Yuval is a young guy who will undoubtedly make the State of Israel proud.”

The IDF confirmed that this is the first time that an ice hockey player has received this status.