MONTREAL — Lebanon’s men’s national hockey team is in the beginning stages of starting a women’s team.
“It’s official we’re going to have a women’s team,” said Charles El-Mir, executive vice president of the Lebanese Hockey Association, who added that former Dearborn resident Sally Tarabah came up with the idea. He said that after running the idea past the board of the Lebanese Hockey Association, they decided to go through with it.
Tarabah, who was born in Lebanon and holds dual Lebanese-American citizenship, played ice hockey for about eight years after moving from Dearborn to Vermont. She now lives in Philadelphia and sits on the Lebanese Hockey Association’s board.
El-Mir said she’ll have a big role in the women’s hockey team.
“She’s really dedicated,” he said. “We need somebody like her.”
He also said a lot of female players are interested in both North America and Europe.
“We’re going to find a good base, I believe,” he said.
Tarabah said she reached out to the men’s team because of her passion for the sport.
“I personally wanted to bring it to Lebanon,” she said. “I wanted to have a Lebanon women’s team. I figured, why not start one?”
She added that the men’s team has welcomed her.
“They’re inviting me to practice with them until we have a full team,” she said.
The Montreal-based men’s team is only about a year old and still has its own obstacles to overcome.
The men’s team hopes to become accepted into the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in order to qualify for the World Cup of Hockey, an international ice hockey tournament that started in 1996 and which replaced the Canada Cup. This requires recognition from the Lebanese government and proof that the sponsoring country has at least one ice hockey rink.
The men’s team has been pre-approved by the Lebanese Olympic Committee and is waiting for recognition by the Lebanese minister of sports. “Because of the election in Lebanon, it’s a time issue until the new minister can approve it,” El-Mir said.He also explained that once the team gets official recognition from Lebanon, it needs one season before it’s accepted into IIHF.
According to El-Mir, players on the men’s team come from all over the world to play. Some are from France and Sweden, while two of the players, Omar Mullan and Christopher Issa, are from Michigan.
El-Mir said the women’s team would be automatically federated with the men’s team once it’s complete.
Tarabah said that the long-term goal for the women’s team would also be to play in international tournaments, qualify for the World Cup of Hockey and possibly, with the right talent, qualify for the Olympics.
“We don’t know if there are many women who qualify that could play ice hockey for Lebanon,” she said. “Lebanon is not an ice hockey country.”
She said that in order to qualify for the team, players must either hold Lebanese citizenship or have a father or grandfather who does.
“And you have to actually know how to play ice hockey,” she said. “You don’t have to be of certain talent level, you just have to know how to play it.”
She added that they need 20-30 people who are decent and willing to commit.
El-Mir said that despite tensions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, the team hopes to represent unity.
Elizabeth Ojeil, director of communications at the Lebanese Hockey Association agrees.
“We’re really proud to do something for our country,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the religion.
“We want to show that there is no religion,” El-Mir said. “We want to promote peace to Lebanon and tell them there is a way to overcome all this and be united. That we can do something everyone will be proud of.”
Sarah Kominek The Arab American News