Published February 12, 2017
A Muslim woman in a hijab skated at a practice last week with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Fatima Al Ali is a member of the women’s national hockey team in the United Arab Emirates who performs tricks with a puck and a hockey stick. Her visit was part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone Month” to attract more fans worldwide.
“I was so nervous going on the ice, but once we started talking it just calmed down,” she said after the practice. “We're just talking about hockey, something we all share and something we all love.”
NHL star Petr Bonda invited Fatima to practice with his former team in December when he saw her puck-handling skills at a hockey camp in the UAE.
A dozen media outlets showed up for the practice and watched as Ovechkin stood on the blue line and fed her the puck.
Afterward, he presented her with an autographed stick.
"It's good for the game, it's good for me, it's good for hockey," Ovechkin said. "I told her I hope she's going to bring more interest in the game to her country and maybe it's going to be a new league because she's got to meet some people out here."
On Thursday, she did the ceremonial puck drop at the Capitals-Red Wings game.
She then took a selfie at center ice with Ovechkin and Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, according to The Washington Post.
Fatima hopes to grow the sport in her country.
"That's my goal," Al Ali said. "Everything I started doing in my life I hope it inspires other people to do something and break the barrier in their culture, whatever they're doing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.