Halifax Syrian refugees see first-ever hockey game

More than 80 Halifax Syrian refugees took in their first-ever hockey game Friday evening.

Saint Mary's University's men's hockey team battles in the University Cup tournament in front of many new fans

More than 80 refugees experience their first-ever hockey game 1:52

More than 80 Halifax Syrian refugees took in their first-ever hockey game Friday evening.

Saint Mary's University's men's hockey team went up against University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières in the quarter final for the University Cup in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

Ziad Khaled Alhessaw clutched his baby girl while watching the game. He said he likes the new moves and techniques used in the game.

"It's challenging. It's really nice to watch," he said through a translator.

Ziad Khaled Alhessaw said he enjoyed the new sport greatly. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

In the stands, cheering the hockey team on, were between 40 and 50 children with their parents, along with three people with disabilities, students association vice president Ossama Nasrallah told CBC News before the game.

"It's going to be a really good experience — and we have seen this from the kids," he said.

"We told them we are going to a hockey game and they ask us, 'What should we do there and how does it look?' They are more than excited."

Ossama Nasrallah, a vice president with Saint Mary's University Students Association, helped organize the hockey field trip for Syrian refugees. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Trip came together quickly

It'll be the first time the group will see the sport, or an ice rink, but Nasrallah said seven school hockey players sat among the group to explain the game, with the help of 14 bilingual students to translate between English and Arabic. 

The school and other groups have gotten together to pay for the tickets, t-shirts, pop and popcorn for the whole experience, he said. 

"It came out really fast," Nasrallah said. "In a week, we were able to get the 80 people."

Saint Mary's University may have made new hockey fans Friday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

'Where they feel welcome'

Many in the group had big smiles early on in the game while wearing toques and their t-shirts over parkas and sweaters.

In the last quarter of 2015, more than 900 people immigrated to Nova Scotia, according to a report released Thursday. That put Nova Scotia's immigration levels at the highest since the mid 1990s, and the province's population at its highest ever, the report said.

"I believe the Canadian people, when they see them and they feel inside them, that yes, we need to do something for these people," Nasrallah said.

"That's where they feel welcome."

With files from Paul Palmeter

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.