For young Muslim hockey players, Nazem Kadri is changing the game


Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri is a role model for thousands of hockey-playing Muslim children in Canada, but things were different in the 1990s when he was getting started in the sport.

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

Things are starting to shift, something London’s Muslim community will celebrate on Saturday when Kadri brings home the Stanley Cup.

I used to tell my teachers all the time 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, is believed to 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, showing carrying a young Nazem, admits he’s a longtime Montreal Canadiens fan, but these days, he cheers first for his son’s team. (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

“Any time you can be the first to do anything really, is quite an achievement,” said the centre, who played with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining Colorado. “This one’s going down in the history books, which is something that’s very special and very cool to me.

“I used to tell my teachers all the time 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 London Muslim Mosque, a place that remains dear to his heart. 

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

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

For London’s Muslim community, having something to celebrate is a blessing. They’re still coming to grips with the June 2021 truck attack on a Muslim family while they were out for an evening walk. Police say the incident was motivated by hate. A man charged with murder and terror-related counts is expected to go to trial next year. 

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

Hockey seeing more diversity

Kadri’s accomplishments are much lauded in London’s hockey community.

“He really proved that anybody can do anything,” said Ahmed Tassi, 12, 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 colours of skin and different beliefs, and even after the game you can hear them talking different languages with their families,” he said.

Kadri emphasized that diversity in the game is important.

“That’s something that’s special to me,” he said. “Making [the sport] diverse.”

Nazem, shown with his father Samir, says, ‘I used to tell my teachers all the time, I was going to the NHL. They just told me to keep doing my homework.’ (Submitted by Samir Kadri)

Kadri’s dad, Samir, also noted how the makeup of the sport is changing.

“I think the numbers are definitely up in minorities who are registering for hockey,” said Samir, who’s a longtime Montreal Canadiens fan, but cheers for any team his son plays on.

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

Over his career, though, Kadri has been the target of racist threats on social media that, for the most part, he ignores.

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

Overall, Kadri believes overall hockey is becoming more inclusive, but admitted, “There’s always going to be ignorant people.”

London Morning9:55The Stanley Cup comes to London

Stanley Cup winning NHL player Nazeem Kadri is bringing 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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