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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Blackhawks star Saad’s story of coming to America a happy one

Chicago winger a reminder of what can happen in a nation of immigrants
Brandon Saad, right, of the Chicago Blackhawks skates around Josh Gorges of the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on April 9, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images
Brandon Saad, right, of the Chicago Blackhawks skates around Josh Gorges of the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on April 9, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Americans forget. Their history is written in the future, not the past.

Consider the case of Brandon Saad, a 21-year-old winger for the Chicago Blackhawks.

His father, George, emigrated from Syria decades ago, and Brandon said the family still has “tons” of relatives in that beleaguered country.

At age 18, George Saad left Syria to study engineering and business in the United States. He married an American woman and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to start a family and a career. Two sons excelled at hockey, and now the younger of the two is a pro and a popular figure in one of America’s largest cities.

Brandon Saad’s world is there, not in the old country. Interviewed after the team’s 3-2 victory over Montreal, the young man conveyed a benign indifference to the past that seems a hallmark of the American mindset.

Asked about his dad’s hometown in Syria, Brandon said he did not know the city’s name but said it was located “a half hour outside Damascus”.

What did the family do in Syria? They were farmers. “They had a bunch of animals,” Brandon said, adding that they grew their own food.

What inspired his father to come to America?

“I don’t know,” Brandon said.

Before Syria fell apart, George Saad would visit it frequently, but Brandon has been there only once, when he was 1. Today, Brandon retains a smattering of Arabic, such as “marhaba” (greetings).

His father, Brandon said, remains in touch with relatives in Syria. “They’re back in his hometown – he’s in contact with them all the time, Skyping and talking to them ... We’re trying to get them over here,” he said.

If they make it to America, it would be their right to, like their immigrant predecessors, melt into the new country and forget about the old.

Perhaps the most telling comment Brandon made was: “I was born in America.”

He is American from start to finish, and through hard work he has found his place as an important player on the defending Stanley Cup champions.

This season, his second, Saad set career highs in goals and assists, with 19 and 28, respectively, through Saturday’s regular-season finale in Nashville.

If he can keep improving in the play-offs, the Hawks will be a step closer to retaining their title and making another ceremonial visit to the White House, which is occupied by Chicago’s own Barack Obama – like Saad, the son of a man who departed his homeland to study in the US.

In some countries, grudges last centuries. In America, everything starts fresh. Brandon Saad, a young man with a big grin, is not living in the past, nor should he be.

rmckenzie@thenational.ae

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