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Watch: Washington Capitals workout Arab female hockey star

By
Alex Butler

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Fatima Al Ali is no stranger to the frozen floor.

But she was a stranger to the Washington Capitals, until this week. Al Ali, who is from Abu Dhabi, showed off her skills Wednesday at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

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Al Ali, 27, is a member of the United Arab Emirates' women's national hockey team. The Washington Capitals fan met former Capitals player Peter Bondra in November in Abu Dhabi. After displaying her skills, Bondra and the Capitals arranged a visit.

She arrived on Monday night to watch the Washington Wizards face the Cleveland Cavaliers. She then attended the Capitals' 5-0 win Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. After the game she met all of her favorite players, including superstar Alex Ovechkin.

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"We are going to have a surprise for her. The Washington Capitals, Monumental Sports Entertainment, and Etihad Airways," Bondra said in a November video. He later Skyped Al Ali and told her of the surprise to fly her to Washington, D.C., bringing her to tears.

The event was also part of the NHL's celebration of Hockey Is For Everyone month. Al Ali also dropped the puck for the Capitals game Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I did not expect my dream would come true," Al Ali told Monumental Sports Net. "This is unreal. I don't believe all of this happened. Even if I see the video over and over again, I won't believe that this happened to me."

Al Ali is the first female sports photographer in the United Arab Emirates.

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"We talked about how many years she has practicing," Ovechkin told the Capitals website. "How many weeks they have. It's pretty impressive."

"She has a dream and it's good to have the kind of people who help her to come here and meet the players."

Bondra was in Abu Dhabi originally after being invited to play in the Presidents' Cup tournament, which included the Emirates Hockey League All-Stars as well as squads from Belarus, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Georgia. Bondra put on a two-day camp while he was there, representing the Capitals. He noticed Al Ali while he was being interviewed.

"She stepped on the ice with no skates on and she started puck-handling," Bondra told NHL.com. "I stopped doing the interview and said, 'Hold it. Let me see what's going on here.'"

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