Ex-Leaf Nazem Kadri brings home the Stanley Cup

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LONDON, Ont. – The “original” Nazem Kadri would have been proud.

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Nearly 55 years after emigrating here from Lebanon, his grandson brought the Stanley Cup to the family mosque, as the first Muslim player to win it, carrying it above hundreds of worshipers outside on Saturday, including many in a pinch of Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leaf and Calgary Flames jerseys.

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A vintage fire engine from London then took Kadri and his extended family via motorcade to nearby Victoria Park, where a few thousand more people officially welcomed Kadri home.

« It’s amazing, a dream come true, » Kadri said after the mayor, his minor hockey coach, his two junior mentors with the London Knights, Dale and Mark Hunter, paid tribute to him and his father, Sam, introduced him.

« The mosque is part of who I am, » he said of choosing to start his designated day with the Cup there. « I think the community deserves it and they’ve been cheering me on for a long time. »

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Although Kadri won the longest-serving team trophy in professional sports with the Avs two months ago and has just signed a seven-year contract with Calgary, there was a sad mood among many spectators that the former first-round pick didn’t make it as part of his draft. crew.


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He had planned to bring the Cup to Toronto later Saturday for a private celebration with friends, which he said would include a few former Leafs teammates.

« It is what it is, at the end of the day, it was not my decision (to leave Toronto), » Kadri said. « No matter who takes a chance on me, I’m going to give them my all. I have great Toronto fans and that will never change.

« I’m not going to spill the beans (which Leafs would meet on) for them, but it will be the whole party. »

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Kadri missed the playoffs five times as a Leaf, was knocked out in the first round four times, appearing in just 19 postseason games largely due to a string of suspensions. He crossed the line too many times in management’s opinion, although no one doubted his motives weren’t genuine.

Now husband and father, a maturity has developed. He played 16 games last spring alone after a career year at Colorado, missing a few with a thumb injury that was supposed to have sidelined him for six weeks. He was back in two weeks with the overtime winner to give his team a 3-1 lead at Tampa Bay in the Finals.

« At the end of the day, it was an opportunity that you never know might happen again, so I was just determined to go back. »

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Kadri knew there would be a large Leaf audience watching the Cup win and dropped the most memorable post-Cup clip « for anyone who thought I was a liability in the playoffs, you can tell me kiss the ass ».

But Saturday was all about handshakes, autographs and photo ops with Kadri and the Cup. There was also a solemn moment at the mosque.

“Only a year ago, we suffered terrible tragedy, loss and suffering in our community,” Dr. Hassan Mostafa, director of the Nazem Kadri Foundation, recalled on Friday. « He is still there in London and among Muslims across Canada. »

On June 6, 2021, Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, his 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, his nine-year-old brother and his 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were walking in the evening when they were hit by a truck. . Nathan Veltman, then 20, faces four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder in what prosecutors believe was an act of terrorism. The youngest child was seriously injured.

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“One year later, celebrating one of our own, reaching those heights by winning the Cup… what could be more Canadian (than that)? asked Mostofa. « Having Nazem bring us the Cup, it really helps with that healing and empowers Muslims who felt disenfranchised and sometimes scared to (just) come out.

« Children in the playground, it gives them a lot more confidence in their identity that a fellow Muslim has won the Cup. Thirteen years ago, during the repechage, his father, his uncles and I joked ‘wouldn’t Isn’t it amazing if Nazem won a cup and he could take it to the mosque?’

« Congratulations to Nazem and his family, they are truly proud of their religion, their heritage, their community. »

Many made the connection on Saturday that the different ethnicities represented in the crowd, many of whom wore local hockey jerseys, were a direct influence on the younger Kadri.

« That’s the goal at the end of the day, just to inspire, » Kadri said. « I have children myself and I know that the younger generation is looking for role models. »


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