Growing up in Edmonton as a hockey-mad Oilers fan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of my favorite players was, ironically, Jarome Iginla – then starring for the rival Calgary Flames.
My other favorite player growing up was Paul Kariya. He had his posters, he kept track of his stats and he always created characters named after him in video games.
Both had mind-blowing stats that ultimately led to countless achievements and consecration in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But that is not the main reason why I identified with them. I remember clearly thinking back then that Iginla and Kariya looked… different. They didn’t look like most NHL players.
Of course, they were a bit different. Iginla’s father is from Nigeria, while Kariya has Japanese roots. I saw something in myself in those two, even if I couldn’t articulate it like a 10-year-old.
While I never seriously pursued athletics outside of recreational leagues, at that age I had my heart set on becoming a sportswriter. Back then, nearing my teens, I had a similar distant kinship with TSN’s Farhan Lalji while watching him on TV. He was someone who, like me, looked a little different and was succeeding.
Seeing those three examples ingrained in me that being different didn’t have to be an impediment and that ultimately I could wish to be whatever I wanted, even if I stood out because of my name, culture or the color of my skin. They showed that boy in Edmonton what was possible, and perhaps more importantly, that nothing was impossible.
On Saturday, thousands of Muslims across the continent will experience a similar moment when nazem kadri brings the Stanley Cup to the Muslim Mosque in London. It is believed to be the first time Lord Stanley’s Cup will enter a mosque in its 124-year history.
At a time when the very fabric of sport is being re-examined in the wake of multiple scandals involving allegations of sexual assault and racism, and amid very real concerns about the accessibility of sport, a Muslim who was a key contributor to the better league team will take the Holy Grail of hockey to a prayer room at the London Muslim Mosque in their Ontario hometown. The importance of that cannot be underestimated.
Muslims in Canada have been through a lot in recent years.
On June 8, 2021, just minutes from where Saturday’s celebration is scheduled, four members of the Afzaal family were killed in an attack on a vehicle that the police described as a crime motivated by Islamophobia.
A year earlier, in September 2020, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death outside a Toronto mosque. In January 2017, a gunman stormed the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City, killing six worshipers.
Beyond the many other physical assaults are the thousands of undocumented incidents of verbal abuse and online threats, many of which Kadri himself endured during the postseason and throughout his career. It takes a toll on a person when he constantly sees that community hatred of him in the news, on the internet, and often in mentions of him on social media.
Kadri has been outspoken about the challenges he has faced as a Muslim man who plays hockey and is a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, whose mission is to eradicate racism and discrimination in the sport. His foundation is currently raising funds for the people of Beirut, Lebanon and supports various local causes. Before the playoffs, Kadri wrote about wanting to explain to his young daughter “what it means to be a Muslim in North America.”
While Saturday will not cure Islamophobia, it will bring hope, optimism and inspiration to many. He won’t be just another player having his Stanley Cup day.
The Muslim community will witness one of their own bring Canada’s most revered trophy to the mosque. Children who look a little different because of their name, skin color or culture will see Kadri hoist the Stanley Cup, a trophy with his name engraved, outside the prayer room. They will be inspired to dream big and know that they can pursue any dream they want. Kadri proved it and accepted his role as a leader in his community.
There is something incredibly powerful about seeing someone who looks like you achieve extraordinary things. When Kadri makes her entrance into the London Muslim Mosque, the possibilities for the community and the sport will truly be endless.
#Kadri #brings #Cup #London #Mosque #leave #lasting #legacy #TSN.ca