Originally written on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 10/23/11

Mahmud Brifkani is an International Relations major at Middle Tennessee State University. The 20-year old came to the United States in 1996 with his family. Brifkani’s parents, along with six brothers and sisters left their home in Duhok, Kurdistan in Northern Iraq where Brifkani’s father was a teacher because it was unsafe for the family to stay in their home country.

The Brifkani’s originally settled in Virginia but moved to Nashville in 1998. On Thursday, October 15, Brifkani experienced live hockey for the first time when he attended the Nashville Predators season home opener against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Predators lost 5-2 but Brifkani got hooked. “I was watching the game on Monday night,” he said, referring to Nashville’s 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, adding, “They were down by one goal. I thought they might come back for the win, but they didn’t.”

Brifkani was invited to the game by some friends from high school who frequent the games at Bridgestone Arena on a regular basis.

Having a busy semester at MTSU, Brifkani decided to take the night off and give hockey a try. A self-described “big sports fan”, Brifkani follows the Titans as well as the MTSU football team and Argentina in soccer.

Brifkani compared hockey to soccer. “That’s one of the reasons why I liked it so much. It was like soccer. There weren’t a lot of breaks like in (American) football. I also really liked how they substitute players. They don’t wait for a stoppage in play, they just jump over the boards for shift changes,” he explained.

While the terminology was something that Brifkani has been familiar with, some of the rules had to be explained to him at the game. “I didn’t know what offsides were. I thought it was cool that there were three periods. Usually in sports it is something even like quarters. I knew some of the terminology before going, but I didn’t pay attention to hockey like I did with football or soccer,” he said.

All that is about to change. “I’m definitely going back to the games,” he said. “It is so different live. You can see how hard the game really is out there on ice.”

Brifkani says he had watched one previous hockey game on television, the Olympic Gold Medal tilt between the United States and Canada.

Brifkani holds duel citizenship and has gone home the past two summers. “I can go back anytime I want. My mom and dad want to go back. My hope is to take my education back there and to benefit the society.”

Will Brifkani give up hockey and the Predators when he goes home? Not necessarily. “They have skating rinks over there now. If you go there you’d be shocked, it’s like Dubai.”

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