Sinan Ozgur lived in Canada for four years before returning to his native Turkey in 2004. He started a family and returned west in 2010, settling in
By his own admission he should’ve known the passion his adopted country had for hockey. But his time here alone hadn’t afforded him firsthand experience of
the game that’s second nature to so many Canadians.
“Just from the movies,” he says, laughing, about when asked if he knew how much Canada loves its hockey.
Ozgur is now spending three days a week at a rink, thanks to his son, Kuzey. Last year Kuzey took his first turn at hockey; after seeing how much fun he
had, Ozgur signed his son up for a second season.
“I just want to adapt him to Canada life,” says Ozgur. “In Turkey we play soccer all the time, not hockey, so I said, ‘why not he’s seven, he can play.’
I’m not expecting him to be like a professional player but at least for future reference it would be nice for him. Sometimes when we send him [somewhere]
he complains but with hockey he never complains.”
The Burnaby Minor Hockey Association had 10 international transfers last year, including players from non-traditional hockey country such as Georgia, Iran
and China. This year it’s working on transfers for players from Korea and Kazakhstan.
When his family moved from China to Burnaby in 2012, Xudong Mou encouraged his son, Sirui, 8, to try as many sports as he liked before deciding on a
favourite. Sirui is starting his second season of hockey.
“He had learned skating before but he had no experience with hockey,” says Mou. “I still remember the first time Sirui played. He hardly touched the puck
the entire game but I always applauded when he did.”
Ghodsiyeh Hosseindoosttaleshani says her family knew nothing about hockey before coming to Canada from Iran in 2012. The interest her son, Seyedsadra, has
in the sport quickly changed that. “We now know all the rules and watching the game is the best fun for us.”
That’s saying a lot considering the position Sadra has taken a liking to.
“When he started skating he had to try and control himself on the ice,” she says. “He improved very fast. In his first game he was the goalie and he was
good. His wish is to be a goalie in the NHL.”
Whether it was a desire to help acclimatize to Canadian culture or to simply follow their friends that drew these kids to the rink, it’s the game itself
that’s keeping them there.
“He likes hockey because he doesn’t have to do the same thing all the time,” says Ozgur. “That’s the most important thing for him. He used to take skating
classes and he got bored.” A boy that age just likes being active with his friends, and if a race to the puck inadvertently dissolves into a game of human
bumper cars, well, then that just makes it all the more fun.
“Hockey is a fast sport,” says Mou. “I think Sirui likes the feeling of chasing the puck at high speed. I like Sirui’s concentration and big smile on the
And as much as the rink has proven to be the perfect playground for the kids, it’s also afforded their parents a community, as well. From other moms and
dads, Hosseindoosttaleshani learned what she could expect as a hockey parent, as well as the rules of the game.
Mou received similar help. When Sirui first started playing he would stand on the offensive side of the blue-line before he was supposed to. “One parent
drew the playing surface on his iPad and patiently explained the offside rule to us,” says Mou. “That triggered us to go to YouTube to learn all the hockey
At games Mou and his wife sit with the other parents to cheer on their kids. “My spoken English isn’t very good, but I spend time with them mainly
listening and practicing,” he says.
Off-ice get-togethers, such as a bowling outing, allow the Ozgurs more time with new friends and provide new topics of conversations when everyone
reconvenes at the rink on Friday. The parents start in the stands, says Ozgur, but the group frequently congregates to warmer confines by the end of a
practice or game.
“Almost nobody stays inside the cold ice rink; everyone goes in closed area and watches the kids from there. They’re my people.”
Ozgur, Mou and Hosseindoosttaleshani are happy their sons have found a new sport to play, not only for how it’s helped them assimilate into a new culture
and given them an active outlet but also for how it’s brought more intangible benefits.
“Kuzey learns, I guess, real life from there,” says Ozgur. “He socializes with the kids there, too – that’s the most important thing for us.”
“Putting Sirui in hockey has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” says Mou. “Hockey has enhanced his teamwork, spirit and agility, and we
really enjoy watching his hockey games now.”