Teen with prosthetic leg takes pride in playing Canada’s game

Omar Al-Ziab, 15, happy with his new home, new friends and new found passion – sledge hockey. THE PROJECTOR/ Zac Easton

Omar Al Ziab, 15, happy with his new home, new friends and new found passion – sledge hockey. THE PROJECTOR/ Zac Easton

A devastating attack didn’t stop a Syrian refugee from pursuing excellence on the ice.

Omar Al Ziab, 15, has been in Canada for just under a year now. Al Ziab and his family came to Canada in November after rebel and military fighting turned their home into a war zone. Omar was walking home from school when he was targeted by enemy military vehicles. The vehicle rushed him and ran him over, crushing his legs. He was forced to have his right leg amputated.

Within weeks of being in Canada, Al Ziab received a prosthetic leg and was able to walk with crutches.

“It is so good here. I love it,” said Al Ziab, noting his favourite thing about his new home is playing hockey.

Al Ziab plays in the Society of Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) winter sledge hockey league. League supervisor Bill Muloin and Al Ziab’s sponsors introduced him to the game months after he learned to walk with crutches.

Muloin sees promise in the young athlete.

“Omar has the upper body strength, he has a natural sledge hockey stride, give him some time and no one will catch him out there,” he said.

The league ran its first practices on Sept. 18. A group of 28 players took to the ice. Al Ziab was supposed to participate in a one-hour practice but remained on the ice for another hour and a half to continue working on his game.

He was tired after his long practice but enjoys being on the ice.

“I feel happy, more happy than you think,” Al Ziab said. “It’s really fun. My favourite part is to shoot.”

Al Ziab takes a Canadian pride in his game.

“My brothers play soccer. Just me, I play hockey. I tell my brothers all the time, ‘I’m more Canadian than you guys,’” he said.

“He is just so excited to be out there, you can see through the mask his huge smile… He has such great energy,” said Barbara Wynes, co-chair of the sponsor group responsible for bringing Al Ziab and his family to Canada.

Al Ziab is now looking forward to the coming sledge hockey season.