For young Muslim hockey players, Nazem Kadri is a game-changer | Radio-Canada News

Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri is a role model for thousands of Muslim kids playing hockey in Canada, but things were different in the 1990s when he got his start in the sport.

“Growing up watching the NHL, I didn’t really see anyone who looked like me or looked like my background,” said Kadri, 31, who grew up in London, Ont., one of five children born to Lebanese parents.

Things are starting to change, which the Muslim community in London will celebrate on Saturday when Kadri wins the Stanley Cup.

I used to tell my teachers all the time that I was going to the NHL. They just told me to keep doing my homework.– Nazem Kadri

Kadri, who is now signed with the Calgary Flames, would be the first Muslim player to win the Cup. He did it with the Colorado Avalanche in June, when the NHL team beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kadri’s dad Samir, carrying a young Nazem, admits he’s a longtime Montreal Canadiens fan, but these days he’s cheering on his son’s team first. (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

“Anytime you can be the first to do anything, that’s quite an achievement,” said the center, who played with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining Colorado. “This one goes into the history books, which is something very special and very cool to me.

“I used to tell my teachers all the time that I was going to the NHL,” he recalled in an interview with CBC News. “They just told me to keep doing my homework.”

Tomorrow, Kadri kicks off a community parade at the Muslim mosque in London, a place that remains dear to him.

“I’ve been going there since I was a kid,” Kadri said. “Friday prayers were obviously something we were involved in.”

Kadri, shown as a youngster, is the only son of five children born in London, Ontario to Lebanese parents. (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

For the Muslim community in London, having something to celebrate is a blessing. They are still grappling with the June 2021 truck attack on a Muslim family as they took an evening stroll. Police said the incident was motivated by hate. A man charged with murder and terrorism-related charges is set to stand trial next year.

Kadri spent his junior hockey career with the Kitchener Rangers and then the London Knights before being drafted in 2009 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

Hockey sees more diversity

Kadri’s accomplishments are highly regarded in the London hockey community.

“He really proved that anyone can do anything,” said 12-year-old Ahmed Tassi of the London Junior Knights Under-12 Triple A team. Ahmed’s family is also Lebanese and Muslim.

Things are changing in minor hockey now, said the young player, who dreams of making the NHL.

“A lot of them have different skin colors and beliefs, and even after the game you can hear them speaking the different languages ​​with their families,” he said.

Kadri emphasized that diversity in the game is important.

“It’s something special for me,” he said. “Manufacturing [the sport] various.”

Nazem, photographed with his father Samir, says: “I always told my teachers that I was going to the NHL. They just told me to keep doing my homework. (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

Kadri’s father, Samir, also noted how the composition of the sport is changing.

“I think the numbers are definitely up in minorities signing up for hockey,” said Samir, who is a longtime Montreal Canadiens fan but cheers on all the teams his son plays on.

“I think that’s one of the things Nazem was able to do. For anyone who’s not Muslim or brown, I think it shows that we’re normal, we’re just like you. We can all get along and enjoy of this great sportswoman.”

During his career, however, Kadri has been the target of racist threats on social media that he mostly ignores.

“It is what it is at this point,” he said. “It’s more their problem than mine.”

Overall, Kadri thinks hockey is becoming more and more inclusive, but admitted, “There will always be ignorant people.

London morning9:55The Stanley Cup is coming to London

NHL player Nazeem Kadri, winner of the Stanley Cup, will bring the Stanley Cup to London on Saturday. Nazeem and his father Samir tell London Morning why Nazeem wants to include London’s Muslim community in the celebration.

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