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Nazem Kadri: A Muslim in the NHL

For any hockey fans reading this, if you happened to catch the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, you might have seen Brian Burke at the podium, and heard him say "The Toronto Maple Leafs...are pleased to select from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Nazem Kadri."

With the 7th pick in the 2009 Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected the highest-profile Muslim player in NHL history.

The reason I say highest profile, and not first, is because Kadri is not the first Muslim to play in the NHL. That distinction, as far as my research indicates, belongs to Alain Nasreddine, who, like Kadri, is also Lebanese-Canadian-Muslim. Nasreddine was the first Muslim in the NHL, having been drafted 135th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 1993 Entry Draft. He is currently still playing professionally, albeit for the Pittsburgh Penguins' AHL affiliate team. Thus far in his career, Nasreddine has played only 74 games with 4 different teams and scored only 9 points.

But back to Kadri.

When first selected, video captured him being congratulated by his family, including his grandmother, who could be seen hugging and kissing him while fully covered, wearing a jilbab.

Such an image is powerful, in that it basically sums up the trend of Muslims in Canada. It shows how immigrant Muslims and their Canadian-born children are seamlessly integrating into Canada and Canadian culture. And they are doing so without feeling the need to entirely shed their old cultures, and without feeling like social outsiders in the process. You'd be hard-pressed to find similar images in the United States; especially for someone of Arab descent. And you'd be even further pressed to find a similar situation in Europe, where Muslims are finding themselves increasingly becoming outcast.

I think it also shows the increasing popularity of hockey amongst young Canadian Muslims. Muslim youth have really taken to the game, but like many other immigrant groups, the price for playing is too steep for too many families. However, that doesn't mean the youth don't find other ways to play. There are plenty of streets around the GTA that are housing road hockey games. Playgrounds in schools are filled with children who use jackets as goal posts and baseball caps as goalie gloves. And there are plenty of ball-hockey leagues and teams that are comprised almost entirely of Muslims. Just this year, Team Pakistan, a team housed entirely of young Pakistani-Canadians from the Greater Toronto Area, went to compete in the 2009 World Ball Hockey Championships in Pilson, Czech Republic. They came in 14th place this year.

While I'm sure Kadri is going to be a very good player at the NHL level, I'm sure marketing and tapping into untapped demographics was a key factor in Brian Burke's and the Toronto Maple Leafs decision. After all, there are more than 250,000 Muslims living in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, so hockey is gaining momentum amongst Canadian Muslim youth. Naturally, the next logical step, would now be to find a face to market. Kadri could be that person, should he develop into the type of player Burke thinks he can be.

The NHL and its affiliates in the GTA have already recognized the sizable South Asian community, and have already started to do simulcasts of Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi. So there is precedent for programs designed to tap into these markets.

Being a high pick in a deep draft for the most popular franchise in hockey, is a lot of pressure to put on Kadri. But if he can make it to star, or even superstar status, he can be the face to which hockey is promoted to Muslim communities and, maybe even the Muslim World. It means his value to the franchise and the league could very well extend far beyond the reach of current NHL markets.

As a Leaf fan and as a young Muslim, I know I'll be watching closely to see how Kadri will be marketed, and how he develops. But more importantly, I'll be watching to see if he can be the leader the Blue and White need to end their championship drought. '67 was along time ago and we need someone to bring the Stanley Cup home. I'm doing du'ah that Kadri will be the one to do it.

Inshallah.


Below are Nazem Kadri's OHL Career Statistics.


Regular Season Stats
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2006-07 Regular Season Kitchener Rangers 62 7 15 22 11 30
2007-08 Regular Season Kitchener Rangers 68 25 40 65 9 57
2008-09 Regular Season London Knights 56 25 53 78 13 31
2008-09 All-Star Classic Western Conference All-Stars 1 1 0 1 0 0

Playoff Stats
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2007 Playoffs Kitchener Rangers 9 0 2 2 0 4
2008 Playoffs Kitchener Rangers 20 9 17 26 16 26
2009 Playoffs London Knights 14 9 12 21 6 22


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19 comments:

honed said... July 5, 2009 at 8:02 PM

I'm a little confused by your assertion that Arab Muslims in the US are not as integrated as their Canadia counterparts. As an Arab-American and a Muslim (and a hockey fan, that's how I wandered over here), you really lost me with this sentence. Care to explain?

ba_mcfarlane said... July 5, 2009 at 11:19 PM

I'm born and raised in Toronto. I love the multicultural mix and vitality of my home town, what my new fellow citizens bring with them from all over the world. I have lived all over America, they haven't got anything like it, they don't have a clue. They are provincial and afraid of anyone who isn't like them. Even fellow Americans. I'm afraid to say I found the African American community down there as bad as the whites when it came to racism towards people from somewhere else.
Canada may be guilty of skimming the best and the brightest from other countries. So what. I say bring in as many more as fast as we can. From everywhere.The sooner we double our population the more independent and vibrant our economy and society will be.

sule said... July 6, 2009 at 6:05 PM

To honed:

Sorry for delayed response. I apologize if my statement comes off implying Arabs aren't as integrated in the United States as they are in Canada. I was forwarding my point in the previous sentence, where I said "...and they are doing so without feeling the need to entirely shed their old cultures, and without feeling like social outsiders in the process".

When I was first writing this, I started the paragraph by explaining how Americans expect people to be Americanized upon arrival in the US. That you look different, but you are like everyone else. The proverbial melting pot, if you will. You are expected to blend in. It's the "You're in America, act American" mentality that I'm addressing there.

In Canada, from my experience, at least, your original heritage is celebrated. We're not a melting pot, but rather, a hetergenous stew. The idea is that you can remain who you were; and instead of you shedding that skin to be more like us, we will try to learn from you and better appreciate your heritage.

I hope that makes sense.

With such a long explanation, I guess you can see why I cut that part out...LOL.

sule said... July 6, 2009 at 6:15 PM

To ba_mcfarlane:

I too lived in the U.S., and I can attest that there are regions of higher-than-normal prejudice towards anything that is different or foreign.

And it's true that there are plenty of racist African Americans, like there are racist Whites, or racist Asians, or racist South Asians, etc.

In fact, I remember after 9/11 (I hate invoking 9/11...but I'll do it here b/c I think it exemplifies my coming point perfectly), there were news reports about the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in American airports, and I thought it was quite telling of how prejudice seeps into the mind and exposes hypocrisy and ignorance. There were some African Americans who were interviewed about racial profiling of Arabs, and they were totally for it, saying you never know who might be a terrorist or who might be anti-American, and that it was alright as long as the rest of the people were okay.

The hypocrisy there is that racial profiling unfairly happens to African Americans all the time on the road; being pulled over for simply driving through the wrong neighbourhood. The idea that someone in all likelihood would be against racial profiling in that situation, yet still accept it so long as their creed wasn't the victim is telling of the prejudice that exists in society.

Now, similar profiling took place in Canada too. I'm sure of it (though I don't have proof to reference to), however, living in the GTA, I find solace in the fact that Pearson Airport employs people of all kinds of backgrounds. The staff is about as diverse as the passengers that pass through the airport. I think this helps in being able to accurately identify suspiciuos people based moreso on behaviour than any religious adherences or ethnic backgrounds.

Long story short, I must wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on Toronto.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Marcus said... August 11, 2009 at 5:16 AM

After the Leafs drafted Nazem, I was interested in finding out about Muslims in the NHL and hockey in the Muslim world so I found out some players. Ramzi Abid, Tahir (Tie) Domi and Martin Straka are the only ones that I know of.

The reason why we haven't seen many Muslims in the NHL is because, Muslims began migrating to North America in large number during the late 1970s and mid 1980s. So it's going to take a while maybe another generation before we see a large number of Muslims in the NHL.

And hockey is not a alien sport in the Muslim World, apparently Field Hockey is the national sport of Pakistan, hence why most Pakistanians in Canada and America find hockey more fun than basketball.

Zany said... September 6, 2009 at 12:44 AM

The above comments regarding our tolerant and diverse attitude in Toronto reminded me of an article that I read in the Globe a while ago. I think it presses the need for more integration between the myriad communities we have in Toronto.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/article674979.ece

Anonymous said... October 7, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Leafs fans! Come out and watch a future Leafs great, Nazem Kadri, play as he and his fellow Knights take on the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga on Sunday, October 11, 2009 @ 2pm! Call 905-502-7788 or visit www.stmichaelsmajors.com for more info.

Anonymous said... December 15, 2009 at 5:19 AM

I'm a huge Leafs fan but I'm NOT a fan in any way of the Luke's Troop segment at the ACC, where IMO the war in Afghanistan is glorified by the ACC giving a stand ovation to a Canadian soldier

This is no dis-respect to soldiers per se, except that IMO Canada has no business occupying a foreign country, especially for now over 8 years, and a Muslim country at that

I wonder when and if Nadri plays for the Leafs if this Lukes Troops segment will offend him - It offends me, so when I'm at the games I always leave for the washrooms when it is featured

Anon

Anonymous said... December 15, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Assalamu Alaikom,

I greatly enjoyed reading this article. The only thing i might add, is that Nazem's career will only be complete once he plays for the habs! :P

Great work, keep it up.

Zied

Anonymous said... December 17, 2009 at 10:41 PM

Religion starts enough conflict in the world! Why corrupt such a beatiful sport with your over opinionated comments. Focus on the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bubba said... December 17, 2009 at 10:49 PM

Living in Canada supports a western lifestyle. If you don't like it, perhaps Lukes troops would appreciate it if you went and lived in a different country! Our troops are there for you morron!

steve said... December 17, 2009 at 10:52 PM

i heard there is an anglican on the Red Wings! Can u believe it? and maybe even a jew on the pens

Anonymous said... December 18, 2009 at 5:51 PM

As long as Nazem Kadri plays good for the leafs who cares if his black or white or green or red (or of a different religion than mine) =)
Looking forward to seeing Kadri play next year with the leafs!!
GO Kadri GO!!!
GO LEAFS GO!!!

100% Leafs Fan

Anonymous said... December 20, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Re: bubba

our troops are there to perpetuate delusions of imperial grandure. I dont like it and Lukes troops can kiss my *ss if they beleive they are doing anything for my benefit.

athiest white guy said... December 28, 2009 at 9:51 PM

All organized religion is a method to manipulate people, it has been for over two thousand years. Hey Bubba, whats a western lifestyle anyway? Your full of shit,our troops are there for a few rich white puppet masters, you ignorant redneck.Religion is outdated hocus-pocus bullshit.

Anonymous said... January 4, 2010 at 6:04 AM

Interesting article. But, I was dissapointed with your comment "You'd be hard-pressed to find similar images in the United States; especially for someone of Arab descent. And you'd be even further pressed to find a similar situation in Europe, where Muslims are finding themselves increasingly becoming outcast." I was hoping that you would have added to it an example from our own backyard that acknowledges how poorly minorities are treated in the Muslim world. Perhaps something like this (based on your quote above): "You'd be hard-pressed to find similar images in the Egypt; especially for someone of Coptic Christian or Jewish descent. And you'd be pressed to find a similar situation anywhere in the Middle East, where non-Muslims are finding themselves increasingly becoming outcast." My point is that we need to stop pointing out the flaws in the rest of the world, as if we have none of our own.

John G said... January 6, 2010 at 3:45 PM

"Living in Canada supports a western lifestyle. If you don't like it, perhaps Lukes troops would appreciate it if you went and lived in a different country! Our troops are there for you morron!"

AHAHAHAHAHAHA are you serious?
were there because of american interests, not canadian, and because harper doesnt want to get out as the majority of canadians do. MORON

Anonymous said... October 8, 2011 at 4:33 AM

To the Author of this crap. As an Arab American, I can you have no f***ing clue what you're talking about.

Anonymous said... September 10, 2013 at 11:23 PM

go home you god damn fcking paki. someone should put a bullet in his head.

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