International Ice Hockey Federation

The unique El Mahmadi

The unique El Mahmadi

Swedish forward with Iraqi roots

Published 15.01.2016 11:03 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
The unique El Mahmadi
ST. CATHARINES, CANADA - JANUARY 11: Sweden's Mariam El-Mahmadi #11 skates the puck against Finland's Sara Sakkinen #27 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Mariam El Mahmadi fell in love with hockey early in life, and that love continues to blossom even as she prepares for life after her U18 career.

Indeed, she will turn 18 tomorrow and isn’t sure what life holds in store for her come the fall, but right now she’s having a great time.

“From the beginning, I wanted to play,” she said after a game at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines yesterday. “It was always just fun. I didn’t think there was any time when I didn’t want to play.”

She may not have a typical Swedish name, but she does have a typical Swedish, hockey-loving heart. A forward, El Mahmadi is playing in her second WW18 event, hoping to learn with each game, hoping to impart some wisdom on her younger teammates.

“I’m always learning, but because I’m one of the oldest now I feel like I can help off the ice, trying to get players involved, being a bit of a leader.”

El Mahmadi was born in the small town of Soderhamn, but four of her eight siblings were born in Iraq. “Because of the war,” she explained, “it was important for my parents to move away and start a new life. I have three older brothers who all played hockey, so I just stared playing with them. My parents went along with it. They’ve supported me all along the way.”

Ironically, her older brothers stopped playing, and she continued. Then, she heard about a program in Ornskoldsvik, home to Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and the Sedin twins, among many other notables.

“I played with boys my whole life until I moved away from my home town,” El Mahmadi continued. “They have a school and hockey program in Ornskoldsvik. Since I’m a girl, I needed to improve as much as possible, so I moved there. It was a big turning point in my life when I started to play with girls.”

Sweden will play for a bronze medal today, and a win would certainly be a fairytale ending for El Mahmadi in her final game of IIHF U18 hockey. And tomorrow? Well, Happy Birthday!


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