Buium Bro’s Star for Univ. of Denver Hockey
SportsNCAA Hockey

Buium Bro’s Star for Univ. of Denver Hockey

The pair of Jewish brothers, Shai and Zeev, have the Pioneers looking for a deep playoff run.

In what has not even been a complete first season in college hockey, Denver’s Zeev Buium (No. 28) has made a name for himself as one of the country’s elite defensemen // Photo Credit: Clarkson Creative/University of Denver
In what has not even been a complete first season in college hockey, Denver’s Zeev Buium (No. 28) has made a name for himself as one of the country’s elite defensemen // Photo Credit: Clarkson Creative/University of Denver

For the past year, the Hughes brothers (Jack, Quinn, and Luke) have been all the rage in the Jewish sports world. The supremely talented siblings – Jack and Luke play for the New Jersey Devils while Quinn skates for the cross-continent Vancouver Canucks – highlight the steadily increasing number of Jewish NHL players. It’s a burgeoning list that will likely soon include another set of brothers, Shai and Zeev Buium, both of whom star for the national title-contending University of Denver Pioneers.

In 2022, Shai, at the time a freshman and a year removed from being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, anchored Denver’s blue line in its successful pursuit of a Frozen Four championship. Now, two years later, he and his freshman baby brother/fellow defenseman, Zeev, have the hockey-mad school gunning for its second title in three years.

“We feel really good about our team – where we’re at right now and the process that we’ve followed this entire year,” remarked Zeev, when speaking to the Atlanta Jewish Times earlier this month in the waning days of the regular season. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year; we’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs. It’s kind of nothing we haven’t been through. I think for our team, we are ready for anything that gets thrown at us or any team that we play. We’re really excited and ready to get this home stretch going.”

The younger Buium’s rise to prominence in the college hockey world – he’s widely expected to go in the first round in June’s NHL draft – is equal parts remarkable and improbable. The son of Israeli immigrants who married in Israel after serving in the army before settling in Southern California, Zeev entered this season as the second youngest player in NCAA hockey behind only Boston University phenom Macklin Celebrini. And yet, as of March 4, with just two games remaining in the regular season, the San Diego native had 41 points on the season, ranking fifth among all freshmen and first for all defensemen in the nation in scoring. For good measure, this stat line does not include his three goals and pair of assists in seven games for the U.S. in this winter’s World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In other words, that his freshman season began before his 18th birthday has hardly fazed him.

“It [age] is not something I think about too much,” said Zeev, who before Denver enjoyed a two-year run in the United States National Team Development Program that culminated with a gold medal at the 2023 U18 World Championship, following a couple years at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota. “I knew I was going to come in this year, and I knew that I was going to have an important role to fill. For me, it’s just following that process that we have here, following my process and continuing to grow every day and do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Denver’s won a lot this winter. After last year’s promising 30-win team was upset in the first round of the NCAA tourney, the Pioneers entered the final weekend of the 2023-24 season with a 23-8-3 record and hoping to break a tie with Michigan for all-time NCAA Division I championships by capturing their 10th next month.

And it’s not a stretch to say that Zeev is one of the prime catalysts behind Denver’s run. While Zeev, at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, lacks the size of his big brother, he is a similarly heady skater who has a polished and well-rounded game in all three zones coupled with deft puck handling skills.

When reflecting on his journey to college hockey stardom, Zeev is quick to credit not just Shai, but his other older brother, Ben, who also played hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, for showing him tough love during their days playing roller hockey in their cul-de-sac neighborhood.

“They beat up on me a lot and definitely toughened me up,” recalled Zeev. “All those times we played mini sticks in the garage or basement or played roller hockey outside, they were always hard on me. They wanted what was best for me. I was really lucky to have really good brothers who looked after me and people I could look up to and mentor me. They’re both amazing. Obviously, having Shai here, too, is huge and an honor.”

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Zeev’s story isn’t that he has posted such remarkable numbers as the second-youngest skater in all of college hockey or that he followed in the footsteps of Shai by enrolling in Denver, but rather that he has wholeheartedly embraced his role of championing ice hockey in his ancestral land.

“When we first went there [Israel], I don’t think they knew what ice hockey was,” said Zeev, whose family habitually visited relatives every summer in Israel prior to the pandemic. “Over the years, it seems that it’s developing and getting a bigger name for itself. I hope my brother and I and the Jewish hockey players of the world are inspiring a little bit, seeing that we can play hockey and it’s definitely doable. Hopefully, over the next couple years it develops even more and becomes a real thing. I’m really excited to see what happens with that.”

Zeev’s hockey odyssey has taken him all over the country – from San Diego to Faribault, Minn., to Plymouth, Mich., and now to Denver. Whenever he leaves college, there will be a new outpost in North America to call home. But despite all his comings and goings, he has retained a soft spot for Israel.

“It’s awesome. I love going there. It’s just alive,” said Zeev. “The people there are great. It feels like home when we go there. All our family’s there. It’s awesome just to connect with them. Every time we go back there, it could be four years later, so everyone looks different. For me, to catch up with them, to see them one summer – with the time differences and everything, we go years without talking to any of our family members – it goes all back to normal. I take advantage of every opportunity that I get to go there and be with my family.”

read more: