A Mexican Hockey Player Looks for a Place to Lace Up His Skates

Perhaps the one issue further unusual than being a Mexican in Lithuania is being a Mexican hockey participant in Lithuania.

So the ultimate astonishment that has greeted Hector Majul since his arrival in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, in late November would not shock him.

At 24, he is a forward for the Hockey Punks, one among 4 teams throughout the nation’s largely unknown expert league. That switch was one different sudden step on an unconventional hockey path, which shifted when Majul was deported to Mexico all through his school career throughout the United States.

“He is an impressive skater,” acknowledged Boris Dorozhenko, Majul’s childhood coach and mentor. “The only problem for him was always his Mexican citizenship.”

Like a rising number of worldwide athletes who want to pursue careers throughout the United States, Majul found that his immigration standing — and what some view as instantly stringent enforcement of technicalities — had become a primary impediment.

In a nation that has prolonged tried to entice athletes and artists with specific abilities, what as quickly as appeared to be a fairly clear path to a minimal of semi-permanent residency has become a far more arduous freeway. The danger of deportation can give you just one unsatisfactory reply to an immigration official, whether or not or not spoken or written on a kind.

In Majul’s case, an incorrect response a yr and a half up to now led to a dizzying journey once more to Mexico, then on to Switzerland and now to Lithuania, with no promise of a return to the United States throughout the shut to future.

Dorozhenko, who carried out hockey throughout the former Soviet Union, discovered a 6-year-old Majul in Mexico City after turning into a coach with the Mexican nationwide program throughout the early 1990s.

Dorozhenko finally landed a hockey job in Arizona, and Majul, 14 on the time, adopted him. Because he was attending highschool, Majul entered the United States with a pupil visa, then turned a fixture at hockey clinics throughout the house, alongside a native standout named Auston Matthews. Drafted first over all by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, Matthews is now among the many many N.H.L.’s brightest stars.

Majul was allowed to maintain throughout the United States after highschool, first on an newbie athlete visa, usually known as a P1, then on one different pupil visa when he landed at Curry College in Massachusetts to play Division III hockey in 2015.

By then he was a star for Mexico in worldwide opponents. In his first look throughout the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division II Group B world championship match in 2014, he tied for the workers’s scoring lead and helped Mexico finish one win shy of promotion to a better division. He was named the match’s prime forward in 2015 and as soon as extra in 2016.

“I know there have been professional players that have Mexican descent or Mexican parents,” Majul acknowledged, referring significantly to the N.H.L. (Matthews’s mother is from Mexico.) “But there has never been a Mexican-born pro hockey player. I want to be that guy.”

But on Aug. 22, 2017, as Majul returned to the United States from a journey residence to see family, Customs and Border Protection officers at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston discovered a make-up discipline belonging to his girlfriend, Katy Weizman. An American, Weizman had accompanied Majul on the journey and returned to the United States the sooner week. The make-up package deal contained a week’s present of Concerta, her A.D.H.D. therapy and a managed substance.

Majul acknowledged that the Houston Police Department had declined to extra study his possession of the drug, nonetheless that he was detained and questioned that evening time and into the morning. According to an attraction filed by his lawyer, Majul suggested a customs agent that he had left Mexico “to pursue a career in ice hockey.”

Based on this admission, Majul was found to have expressed an intention to violate the phrases of his pupil visa. The visa was canceled, and he was deported after just about a decade of legally dwelling and training throughout the United States.

When contacted about this case, the Customs and Border Protection firm acknowledged in a assertion that officers had found that Majul “provided differing answers when asked about his trip to the U.S. and the reason he departed his country of origin.”

Majul’s lawyer submitted an attraction in September 2017, saying the officers had overreached of their alternative. The attraction was denied.

Marian Daugherty, who took Majul into her residence when he first moved to the United States, organize a “Bring Hector Back” Facebook internet web page and reached out to the office of then-Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, to no avail.

Majul was left to put together in Mexico City, unable to return to the United States until 2022 and with out the suppliers of an agent. But with solely 1,552 registered hockey avid gamers in Mexico, in distinction with better than 562,000 throughout the United States, Majul knew he would want to go elsewhere to maintain his sport.

Majul and Dorozhenko canvassed their hockey group. Their search drew the attention of Arno Del Curto, who for 22 years had led the Davos hockey membership in Switzerland. Equipped with a 90-day vacationer visa, Majul ventured to Switzerland. Within three weeks, he was suggested that the workers wished him to maintain.

“It was a huge relief,” Majul acknowledged. “I’m going to be honest, I think I teared up a little bit when I talked to my parents.”

But immigration would as soon as extra become a hurdle. To qualify for certification, Majul wished to have been thought-about a expert sooner than arriving in Switzerland. Because he had most not too way back carried out aggressive hockey in school and with the Mexican nationwide workers, he was deemed an newbie and denied a visa. The membership in Davos appealed to the Swiss authorities, even offering to hire Majul as a talents coach throughout the hopes which can current a approved workaround.

By November, with solely 5 days remaining on his vacationer visa and all his decisions exhausted, Majul went to put together with a coach and former colleague of Dorozhenko’s in Serbia. Days later, he acquired an invitation to be a a part of Hockey Punks.

The Lithuanian membership signed Majul to a contract, equipped an condominium in Vilnius and helped him stabilize his immigration standing. In perhaps basically probably the most shocking flip of this hockey escapade, Majul is not the one Mexican on the workers. His countryman Arunas Bermejo joined the membership whereas studying in Lithuania.

“It’s a steppingstone, something to help me get to the next level,” Majul acknowledged. “Usually when people say they’re going to Europe, nobody thinks of Lithuania or Vilnius.”

He acknowledged that the transition to life in Vilnius was troublesome, significantly considering the abrupt nature of his arrival. But he has come to get pleasure from his new setting.

“It’s actually a really nice town,” Majul acknowledged. “Great food, people are very friendly. I think the only downside is how cold it is.”

The frequent extreme temperature in Vilnius in February is 30 ranges — not frigid, till your reference components are Mexico and Arizona.

Majul has been authorised for worker certification that for the next yr or two will allow him to work all through the Schengen Area, a space of 26 European nations, along with Switzerland. That would make it easier for Majul to rejoin Davos for the 2019-20 season. (That hope was muddled when Del Curto launched his resignation in November.)

Daugherty helped Majul enroll in on-line programs through Arizona State University, and he is working to full his diploma.

In his first expert sport, on Dec. 22, a 5-2 loss to Kaunas, Majul registered an assist. In his first eight video video games with the membership, Majul collected a objective and 6 assists. He has not given up on his skilled hockey objectives, along with a potential return to the United States.

“I think in North America I have this label of, ‘Why is a Mexican playing hockey? He should be playing soccer,’” Majul acknowledged. “Don’t get me wrong. Here it’s also a shock when they hear there’s a Mexican hockey player. But after they see me playing, they see the level that I have, it kind of speaks for itself.”

“I think that was maybe the way it had to go,” he added. “Maybe for me to be able to go on to the next level, I had to come and make it through here first.”

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