Syrian refugee kids in Calgary take to the ice
After watching Hitmen game, 14-year-old inspired to skate
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It’s the most Canadian of pastimes: strapping on a pair of skates and hitting the rink, and one that sparked the interest of a group of young refugees who now call Calgary home.
“It’s a beautiful sport,” said 14-year-old Ahmed Al Khodr, who came from Syria to Canada with his family in December of 2015.
He and his two younger brothers have spent their Sundays teaching themselves to skate at the Stew Hendry Arena since October.
The rink outings were first organized by Colette DeJordy, chair of the refugee support team at Calgary’s Commons Church, who have sponsored a refugee family and organize volunteers to help newcomers in the community.
DeJordy said the church works with three refugee families with young children, getting them out and engaged in various activities including soccer and swimming lessons.
It was the children who first asked about learning to skate, after hearing about hockey so often.
Ranging in age from six to 14, the group of youngsters initially hadn’t shown any interest in hockey itself, but that is slowly changing as they are becoming more exposed to the sport.
“There was this curiosity about skating, because it was so new to them. They’d say they want to play hockey, but had never seen a game before.”
Al Khodr saw a Calgary Hitmen game and “that’s when he was hooked,” according to DeJordy.
Al Khodr said he would like to learn to play hockey eventually, but like most of his friends, he prefers soccer.
“It’s just for fun,” he said.
His younger brother, 10-year-old Mohamad Al Khodr, said he loves watching hockey because of how “fast and fun” the sport is, and is a new fan of the Calgary Flames and Hitmen hockey teams. He hopes to learn to play next year.
DeJordy said she wasn’t expecting the group to be so committed to learning to skate, but they now are often the first on the ice and last off.
“In the last few weeks, there’s been a [hockey] tournament right after us, so now I can’t get them off the ice. Because now they’re busy watching.”