New Brunswick

Mouhamad Al Darwich becomes Fredericton's 1st Syrian hockey player

Soon after refugee, Mouhamad Al Darwich arrived in Canada and saw his first hockey game, he knew he wanted to play.

After many falls and lots of practice, Mouhamad will play his first hockey game in January

Mouhamad Al Darwich loves the game

NB

4 years agoVideo
1:17
Soon after refugee Mouhamad Al Darwich arrived in Canada and saw his first hockey game, he knew he wanted to play. 1:17

Soon after refugee Mouhamad Al Darwich arrived in Canada and saw his first hockey game, he knew he wanted to play.

Mike McDonald, pastor of the Hanwell Community Church, which sponsored Mouhamad and his family's resettlement, took them to a hockey game in March. 

"He saw the game and said, 'I'd like to try that,'" McDonald said. 

Mouhamad, now 10, was not unfamiliar with the cold before arriving in Fredericton last winter. 

After fleeing Syria, where their house was bombed, he and his family spent three years in a refugee camp in Lebanon, two of them in a tent and often in snow.

But the only sport Mouhamad had ever played was soccer. 

Mouhamad Al Darwich has come a long way since he first started skating and could barely stand up. (Ed Hunter/CBC)
McDonald put him into First Shift, a Canadian Tire program that gives children the gear and the basic skills they need to play hockey.

No other young Syrian newcomers in Fredericton have gone through the program, McDonald said.

Mouhamad, a Grade 5 student at Connaught Street School, had never even skated.

"The first day all he did was fall down a lot," McDonald said.

"Every time he would fall down, his father would laugh, and he would look at his father and he would laugh back. I thought, 'This isn't going well,' but he loved it and wanted to do more."

To solve the falling problem, McDonald got him to walk up and down the stairs at home, with his skates and skate guards on. After doing that every day, Mouhamad's balance on skates improved.     

Got his name on his jersey

As he practiced, his parents had trouble finding him among all the kids on the ice.

Help came from his grandmother Souade, who lives with Mouhamad, his parents Salwa and Aarfan and sisters Ghazal and Miriam.

Souade started sewing and put a patch with Mouhamad's last name on the back of his jersey. 

Mike McDonald watches Mouhamad's final practice with the boy's father, Aarfan. (Ed Hunter/CBC)
Mouhamad​ was excited. He felt like Sidney Crosby, one of the players he's taken a liking too. 

Ghazal, 7, however, was a little jealous.

She's awaiting eye surgery and isn't allowed to play any contact sports yet. But she already has skates and a helmet and has been practising. 

On Tuesday, Mouhamad completed the final training session. In the new year he will join one of the nine Atom C teams in the Fredericton Youth Hockey Association. Then he'll get to play his first game. 

"I love that game," Mouhamad said

About the Author

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.

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