WEST BLOOMFIELD, MI — Butrus Ghafari has a lot on his plate for a 16-year old hockey player. Earlier this year the West Bloomfield teenager was drafted by the United States Hockey League (USHL), the top junior hockey league in the country, to play for the Fargo Force in North Dakota. But now his year has gotten even busier, as he has become one of 20 players who will be representing the U.S in the under 17-Five Nations Tournament, an annual series of hockey games where the U.S competes against the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia for a championship.
|Butrus Ghafari playing hockey. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Ghafari family.|
The fact that Ghafari was selected to compete in the tournament speaks volumes for his skills. Around 180-200 players in the U.S from different districts faced off in the nationals which took place in New York earlier this year. From there, Ghafari was one of the top 20 players during the competition and was selected to play in the tournament, which kicks off on August 7.
Ghafari's family says he has been training for the overseas tournament for weeks now. Earlier this week he flew to Washington D.C to practice with his teammates, before all 20 players headed off to the Czech Republic to prepare and practice for the games.
"He is very excited, pumped up and ready to compete. It's a great honor for him to be wearing the USA jersey and representing the country," stated John Ghafari, his father.
But even before he was selected for the tournament, Ghafari's future in hockey already looked pretty bright. When he was just 15, he was given a full ride scholarship to Western Michigan University, after being noticed by Andy Murray, the current head coach of Western's Broncos hockey team. He is expected to make the full move to Kalamazoo in 2015 to play for the team.
But after his summer stint in the Five Nations Tournament is over, Ghafari will be moving to North Dakota to play for the Fargo Force while he completes his high school education there. The USHL recruited him using a rare tenders process, which means they forfeited their first round pick during the yearly drafts. It also means that during his time there, he will not be able to be traded.
Playing hockey while finishing up his diploma should not be a problem for Ghafari, as he has been playing the sport for as long as he ould remember. His father says that he has been passionate and focused on the sport since he was just five years old. He eventually wants to pursue his dreams of playing in the NHL and according to his father, the family will back him up until he reaches the top.
"We feel very proud, honored and very grateful for him to be selected. He is the type of kid that works very hard every single day. He has big goals ahead of him and he's taking the steps to get them accomplished," his father added.
Ghafari trains at least twice a day to keep his skills sharpened, both during and off-season. It requires a lot of dedication, focus and energy, but his father says that it was a path and decision he made on his own.
"It takes a lot of discipline for every kid, because you have to give up a lot of your personal life to continue training. It affects everything in your life from what you eat to what time you sleep. It's hard on a young kid but it's a choice he made and one he wanted to do so bad. He hopes to continue with his success in the future," his father added.
Ghafari was born in Grosse Pointe before his family moved to West Bloomfield, where he grew up learning how to play Hockey. He attended Andover High School before being selected to go to Fargo.
Ghafari, a Lebanese-Christian, currently stands at six feet tall and weighs approximately 175 lbs. In particular he has gotten recognized for his sharp defense skills on the ice ring. His uncle, Louis Ghafari, says he is the only Arab-American on the team competing in the Five Nations Tournament.
"When our family first found out, we were very emotional. We're so proud of him," his uncle said gushing with pride. "He is truly a gifted child."