montreal | What’s a nice Jewish boy from Montreal doing searching for his soul mate on U.S. television?
Harold Hersh, a 29-year-old journeyman pro hockey player, may have been asking himself that question of late.
We now know that Hersh, a participant on the latest incarnation of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” didn’t make it past the latest round of selections.
Handsome and affable, Hersh stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 195 pounds. His hockey background was evident the moment he was introduced to Phillips during the show’s premier. He presented her with a hockey sweater with her name on it, courtesy of his team, the Granby Predateurs of the semi-pro Quebec Senior League.
Phillips seemed to be impressed with the gesture, as Hersh made the first cut from 25 to 15 eager suitors. Phillips indicated her choice by offering roses to 15 men.
Born and raised in Laval, a municipality of Montreal, Hersh’s mother, Bryna, is a longtime employee of Federation CJA, the Montreal Jewish federation.
He has played hockey most of his life and made it as high as the Montreal Canadiens’ farm team in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he played from 1995 to 1997.
Hersh’s experience at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel may rank among his fondest memories. As captain of the Canadian hockey team that year, Hersh had the opportunity to see Israel for the first time.
“I haven’t really been that affiliated with Jewish organizations in the past, because that’s hard to do when you’re playing hockey as much as I have and traveling as often as I do,” he said.
Hersh has volunteered with fund-raisers for the Jewish community. But visiting Israel was something else entirely.
Mark Routenberg, a onetime minority shareholder of baseball’s Montreal Expos, “put together an amazing team and gave us the most incredible experience of our lives,” Hersh said. “We were given tours and saw many memorable things. I would love to spend some more time there someday.”
The Canadian Maccabiah team, coached by Jacques Demers — whose 1993 Canadiens won the NHL Stanley Cup — won the hockey gold medal in Israel.
Now Hersh hopes to get just as lucky with Phillips. The fact that he even is on the show is a victory of sorts. He was chosen after an avid fan of his — Jo Mason, a grandmother from Rock Island, Ill. — successfully applied for him without his knowledge.
Mason became Hersh’s “away-from-home mom” when he played hockey in Rock Island three years ago. ABC, which restricts contestants to Americans only, relaxed its rules and flew Hersh to Los Angeles for a battery of psychological tests and a background security check.
The episode scheduled for broadcast on Jan. 21 features Hersh and six other suitors on a group date with Phillips. According to Hersh, they ride All-Terrain Vehicles in the Salt Springs Desert.
“She’s really sweet and much better looking in person than on TV,” he said of Phillips.
Coming from a Montreal community that has a very low intermarriage rate, does it bother Hersh that Phillips isn’t Jewish?
“It’s more important that I be happy with someone special than whether she is Jewish,” he said. “I always felt that if there was a connection with her, I’d marry her. If it’s meant to be — even though TV is a weird place to meet — why not?”
Whether or not he wins, Hersh figures he already has gotten some benefits. He has become good friends with two of the other contestants and has received e-mails from old friends who have seen him on the show.
“Some Jewish women have wished me good luck with Meredith,” he noted, “and asked me to call them if things don’t work out with her.”
Hersh now has a Web site at http://haroldhersh.tripod.com, also thanks to Mason, who is his Web master. Since “The Bachelorette” series began running, he has received more than 60,000 hits.