Peter Bondra, Capitals surprise UAE women's hockey star (Video)

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Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals

When former Washington Capitals star Peter Bondra saw Fatima Al Ali stickhandling during a recent trip to Abu Dhabi, he was quite impressed.

In fact, Bondra, who scored 503 goals in the NHL, saw skills that even he didn’t possess.

“It’s safe to say she has better hands than me, which I still say she does and I can say she probably has better hands than most of the NHL players, but not negatively,” Bondra said via phone to Puck Daddy. “I’m saying in a positive way for players because not everybody can control the puck the way she did.”

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Bondra met the 26-year-old Al Ali at a youth hockey camp he coached for Pavlikovsky Hockey School at the Zayed Sports Ice Rink in Abu Dhabi from Nov. 13-14 in conjunction with Monumental Sports Global Academies.

This was before a tournament he played there with a bunch of Slovakian former NHLers.

Al Ali wasn’t part of the camp but she was around the rink and at first she started talking to members of Bondra’s camera crew from Monumental Sports. Then after she stepped on the ice with no skates and started doing tricks with the puck they all stopped to take notice. Bondra took out his phone and shot a video to post on social media.

“After I posted it, I guess it went viral from social media and Twitter,” Bondra said. “So I started talking to Fatima about what she does, and tried to find out more about her, and she told me she started to play hockey five or six years ago, which is pretty rare.”

Al Ali plays on the UAE’s women’s national team and was also a referee at the tournament Bondra played, so their friendship grew in the following days after their first meeting. In their times chatting, he found out that Al Ali’s favorite hockey player was Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and that her favorite team was the Caps.

According to the IIHF’s website, the UAE has 802 registered players and just 82 registered female players.

When Bondra asked people about Al Ali, they told him she was a rink rat and was there pretty much every day. Bondra became even more impressed when he saw a video of Al Ali using her stickhandling move on a breakaway.

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Before Bondra left Abu Dhabi, he told her “If you have a chance to travel to the U.S. or (Washington) DC, let me know, I’ll be more than happy to take you to a Capitals game. I’ll take care of the tickets.”

When Bondra got back to the United States, he found out that the Capitals and Etihad Airways had figured out a way to fly Al Ali to Washington to see her first Capitals game. This was for Hockey is for Everyone month in February. So they set up a Skype call to tell her this.

When Bondra delivered the news to Al Ali, she started to cry and couldn’t stop.

“It feels good. I feel good about this whole thing,” Bondra said. “We did something good and definitely she deserves the invitation. I think she accepted the invitation, which is good. It’s good for her. You can see how much love for the game she has. I know she was emotionally excited about it and she texted me a couple of times after the Skype call and she couldn’t thank me enough for the Capitals or Etihad as well for making her dreams come true.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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