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Ex-Leaf Nazem Kadri brings home the Stanley Cup

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The “original” Nazem Kadri would have been proud.

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Nearly 55 years after emigrating from Lebanon, his namesake grandson brought the Stanley Cup to the prayer hall of the family’s Muslim London mosque, the first Muslin to win it, elevating it above hundreds away loyalists, many of them Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys and Calgary Flames.

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

Lebanese flags waved amid the Canadian sheet and many young women in hijabs were part of the procession that noisily led the Kadri clan in a vintage London fire engine to the main celebration in Victoria Park.

“It’s amazing, a dream come true,” Kadri said after Mayor Ed Holder gave him the key to the city. Kadri’s minor hockey coach also spoke, followed by his two junior mentors with the Knights, Dale and Mark Hunter.

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“I wanted to share it with all of you,” Kadri said. “I hope this inspires children to pursue their dreams. I had great support and seeing you all motivate me more.

“We’re going to try and get this thing going again and I’m going to Calgary to get the job done.”

Joy, however, was mixed with some solemn observations at the mosque.

“Only a year ago, we suffered tremendous tragedy, loss and suffering,” Dr. Hassan Mostafa, director of the Nazem Kadri Foundation, told Breakfast Television on Friday. “He is still there in London and among Muslims across Canada.”

Nazem Kadri carries the Stanley Cup at his hometown, the London Muslim Mosque in London, Ontario, Canada August 27, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
Nazem Kadri carries the Stanley Cup at his hometown, the London Muslim Mosque in London, Ontario, Canada August 27, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

On June 6, 2021, Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, his 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, his 9-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 survived.

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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. “To have Nazem bring us the Cup, it really helps to heal and empower Muslims who felt disenfranchised and those who are scared sometimes (just) to come out.

“Kids in the playground, it gives them a lot more confidence in their identity that a fellow Muslim won the Cup. Thirteen years ago, we went to the NHL draft in Montreal. His father, his uncles and I joked, “Wouldn’t it be 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.

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

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The Afzaal family had also attended the same mosque.

“It’s a big part of today, especially with Islamophobia these days,” Kadri’s father Sam said.
“We just wanted to connect and say ‘listen, we’re no different to anybody. We have the same concerns, the same commitment and we all work hard in our community to improve it.

“We have to get rid of this ignorance.”

LEAFS’ CUP DROUGHT TOUCH WHILE KADRI IS OVER

LONDON, Ont. — It could be as close to a Stanley Cup parade as the Maple Leafs will get for the foreseeable future — or the start of a few others that are Flames-flavored.

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The silver trophy shone in the summer sun on Saturday, surrounded by cheering fans dressed in Leafs jerseys with a former Toronto first-round pick lifting it along the course.

But Nazem Kadri won it as the Colorado Avalanche and is now a Calgary Flame for the next seven years. The Leafs were featured prominently in a career video of Kadri played at the bandstand in Victoria Park. But blue and white fans have to be content that Kadri flew him back to Toronto for just a few hours on Saturday night for a party that was to include a few ex-teammates.

For nine seasons — five of the playoffs, four in, most of the latter marked by his suspensions for trying to be aggressive at the critical moment — Kadri bled blue. Now he is a flame and more than one speaker on Saturday predicted he would soon lead another parade wearing a cowboy hat.

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“It is what it is,” Kadri said of the Leafs after signing numerous Toronto jerseys and a homemade girl’s sign that read “Leafs Nation Misses You.”

“At the end of the day, it wasn’t my decision (to leave via trade in 2019). No matter who takes a chance, I’m going to give them everything I have. I have great supporters in Toronto 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.”
He becomes another prominent ex-Leaf in recent years to win the Cup elsewhere, joining Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. Kadri’s father, Sam, who introduced him to hockey and was with him early in his career when fans at the Bell Center in Montreal booed his selection, came on a few father-son trips with the Leafs and knew intimately the team management and the coaches.

“A big part of me (wishes he had won as a Leaf),” the elder Kadri said of a 55-year drought. “If my son never plays in the NHL again, I would like the Leafs to win it.”

A more mature Nazem, now a husband and father, played 16 playoff games last spring alone after a career regular season at Colorado, missing a few with a thumb injury that was supposed to have put him on hold. away for six weeks.

He was back in two weeks with the overtime winner to give the Avs a 3-1 lead at Tampa Bay in the Finals.

“He had a journey,” Sam said. “Like everything in life, you persevere, work hard…and the results are a Stanley Cup.”

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