Nazem Kadri has already experienced plenty of doubt, and hate, during his rise through the hockey ranks. On Saturday, the newest member of the Calgary Flames sent a message to others like him.
It’s not a dream, it’s a goal. Visible or religious differences are not obstacles, they’re opportunities. He brought that message to his community at the London Muslim Mosque this weekend, and the greater community of his hometown of London, Ont. And through the airwaves and the internet, that message will reach beyond any religious or geographic boundaries, too.
“That’s the goal, to inspire and motivate the youth,” Kadri told reporters during his day with the Cup.
“This young generation is looking for role models so I do the best I can and I’m just happy I get to share it with everybody.”
That started at the mosque. The first Muslim NHL player to win the Stanley Cup prompted what is believed to be the hockey chalice’s first trip to a mosque.
“The mosque is part of who I am,” Kadri said. “I think the community deserves it and they’ve been cheering me on a long time.”
It was a fantastic step forward in diversifying the fastest game on ice. In some way, maybe it will do more than that.
A little more than a year ago, a horrific vehicular attack occurred minutes from that same mosque Kadri celebrated his Cup tour. Four members of London’s Afzaal family were murdered in a vehicle attack police described as a crime motivated by Islamophobia.
Flames newcomer a target of hate on social media
Kadri himself absorbed mountains of personal attacks via social media during the playoffs alone. That prompted a spur of the moment rebuttal on the ice after winning the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche this spring.
“For everyone that thought I was a liability in the playoffs,” he said, “you can kiss my ass.”
That edge in Kadri’s personality is something the Calgary Flames are looking forward to with their club this season. He’s a proven winner with snarl and skill (get used to hearing that), and Kadri says he may be even more motivated now.
“I wanted to share it with all you guys,” Kadri said to the crowd in London. “I’m hoping this inspires kids to pursue their dreams. I had great support and seeing all of you come out just motivates me more.
“We’re going to try and run this thing back and I’m going to Calgary to get the job done.”
Calgary Flames fans are hoping that becomes prophetic.