Montreal

Montrealer keen to represent Tunisia in first-ever African Ice Hockey Cup

The 24-year-old Rosemont resident started playing hockey shortly after his arrival in Canada as a five-year-old immigrant from Tunisia, and says he’s keen to apply the skills he’s acquired with the Tunisian squad.

Achraf Znaki says he's just one of many Montrealers vying for the title in Rabat, Morocco

Achraf Znaki hasn't played with his Tunisian teammates for a couple of years, but he's confident the national team has a good chance at winning the African Ice Hockey Cup. (Laurent Boussu)

Montrealer Achraf Znaki will be in Rabat, Morocco, this weekend playing for the Tunisian national hockey team in the first-ever African Ice Hockey Cup.

The 24-year-old Rosemont resident started playing hockey shortly after his arrival in Canada as a five-year-old immigrant, and says he's keen to apply the skills he acquired here with the Tunisian squad.

"It means a lot. I'm very proud to play for my country, to represent my family," he said, adding that 95 per cent of his relatives still live in Tunisia.

Znaki is currently in Tunisia visiting with family and training for the tournament. But with no ice rinks in the country, training involves running on the beach and working out, he said.

The round-robin tournament begins July 24 and will pit Tunisia against the national teams of Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

The small size of the ice rink in Rabat means the teams will play three-on-three.

The Olympics one day?

Znaki said he's not the only Montrealer in the tournament — another teammate and many of the Moroccan players are from Montreal, too.

The last time the Tunisian squad trained together was two years ago in France, but Znaki's not concerned.

"We'll be very competitive — we have a good level of play," he said, comparing it to Junior AAA-level hockey.

His other Tunisian teammates are the sons of Tunisian natives and hail from Finland, Germany, France and Sweden.

As to the possibility of the Tunisian national team competing in the Olympics some day, Znaki is optimistic.

"It's going to be a long road, but I hope so," he said. 

Tunisia's first game is Sunday.

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