Columbus:Akim "The Dream" Aliu was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday with a chance to become the second Nigerian to play in the NHL.
Born in Nigeria, raised in Ukraine, moved to Canada when he was 11, and then shuttled to Sudbury, Ontario, to play juniors a year ago, Aliu was picked by the Blackhawks in the second round on the second day of the NHL draft.
"My dad didn't see a (ice) hockey rink until he was 40 years old," Aliu said. "My mom grew up in Russia, but hockey wasn't really part of her life, her culture. They're happy about what I'm doing right now. I'm happy for what I'm doing too."
Aliu took 18 years and thousands of miles (kilometers) for him to end up wearing a Blackhawks jersey and smiling before a phalanx of cameras.
He wanted to play soccer, but felt the pull of Canada's national sport. A year ago, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound (1.88-meter, 91-kilogram) forward had 16 goals and seven assists with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.
Aliu, who trains in the summers with Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star Rick Nash, said that back in his homeland nobody knows how far he has already come.