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Hockey is For Everyone – Even Those Halfway Around the Globe

February 9, 2018
I’ve always been a big believer that sport is one of the great equalizers in this world, transcending religious, political, geographical and gender boundaries to bring us all together around a common goal and interest.

This is why I am such a strong supporter of Hockey is For Everyone (HIFE), the NHL’s official youth development program that provides support to non-profit youth hockey organizations across North America, and am proud to announce that the Capitals will be participating, yet again, in the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone Month programming throughout the month of February. To learn more about the NHL’s HIFE initiative and see a full schedule of Capitals HIFE Month events, please visit

Thanks to what some call “The Ovechkin Effect,” the total number of USA Hockey-registered youth hockey players in the Washington, D.C., area climbed almost 200% from 2005-06 through 2016-17. Most recently USA Hockey announced that in the past five years, the Potomac Valley region (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) has increased the 8-and-under age category by an amazing 52%, including last year’s largest year-over-year gain (+1,230) in the country. USA Hockey claims our region “is among the nation’s fastest-growing hockey hotbeds.” But Alex’s influence and that of the NHL go far beyond our nation’s capital – I’m talking halfway around the globe.

If you are a loyal follower of the Washington Capitals, you may remember the name Fatima Al Ali – or at least her epic selfie with Alex and Henrik Zetterberg.

While hosting a youth hockey clinic in Abu Dhabi, Capitals all-time great Peter Bondra met Fatima, a member of the United Arab Emirates National Women’s Hockey Team. So impressed with her stickhandling skills, the Capitals and Etihad Airways surprised Fatima with a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet her favorite player, Alex Ovechkin. She got the chance to skate with the team and participate in a ceremonial puck drop at the Caps game against the Detroit Red Wings during last year’s HIFE Month. Fatima’s love for the game and her unbridled enthusiasm at this opportunity was inspiring. It instantly connected her to the two players in the photo, hailing from Russia and Sweden, to Caps fans here in D.C. and to hockey fans around the world.

This week, Fatima is headed back to the States. This time she’s bringing a few friends, 16 of them to be exact – her UAE National Women’s Hockey teammates.

While here, Fatima and her teammates will have the opportunity to attend two Capitals practices and tour the team’s Kettler Capitals Iceplex facility. They will scrimmage a local women’s team, the Washington Pride, competing but also building more connections and memories. The team will cap off their time in Washington with a ceremonial puck drop at the Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets game on Feb. 9 as part of the Capitals HIFE Month Women’s Theme Night.

Fatima and her teammates encapsulate exactly what Hockey is For Everyone is all about – encouraging people of all backgrounds to play hockey and use the sport as a catalyst to teach essential life skills and the core values of hockey: commitment, perseverance and teamwork. We could not be prouder to host them in our nation’s capital this week!