Alain Nasreddine Named Assistant Coach of the Dallas Stars: Lebanese Canadian Breaks Barriers for the Future
By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer
On July 1, 2022, the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL) named former NHL defenseman and the New Jersey Devils’ interim coach, Alain Nasreddine, as one of their two assistant coaches starting in the 2022-2023 season. Nasreddine is of Arab and French Canadian descent, in which his father is originally from Lebanon. His achievement in becoming an assistant coach for a professional hockey team breaks barriers and is an inspiration for others who hope to follow in his footsteps.
Nasreddine credits his success to both the dedication and sacrifices made by his parents and especially to the hard-working, never-quit attitude of his Lebanese immigrant father, Akram. So, how did Alain Nasreddine get into this position as an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars? Come along as we trace the steps of this journeyman NHL player who made it big in the hockey world as a coach. First, our journey begins in the small village of Qmatiyeh, Lebanon.
Lebanese Immigrant Roots and French Canadian Hockey Sticks:
Alain Nasreddine has a very interesting story with roots long ago planted in the beautiful country of Lebanon, and he found his love of hockey from his French Canadian mother. Alain’s father, Akram, is originally from Qmatiyeh in Lebanon. Qmatiyeh is a small village southeast of Beirut, and it lies on the Mediterranean coast. In fact, the family name of “Nassreddine” is still well-known throughout the village.
Akram immigrated to Canada and met Alain’s mother, Francine, and they settled in Montreal, Quebec. Akram and Francine were essential influences on their son Alain’s life, career, and heritage. Alain’s father, Akram, started his new life in Canada from nothing.
According to an article from The Athletic, “Akram only came to Canada in 1970 with one bag and the ability to speak three languages, but he could only read French, and worked in various factory jobs where he was paid only between $1.25 and $3 an hour.” Akram followed the course of many Arab immigrants who arrived in Canada and the United States in that he started from nothing. Through hard work and determination, the father saved enough to start his own business, the now-famous chain of “Pizza Madonna” in Quebec. In essence, Akram was the driving force behind Alain’s dedication, that hard work makes one successful, and he also instilled the love of his Arab heritage in his son.
Francine, Alain’s mother, also played a pivotal role in her son’s career. Francine is not an Arab; instead, she is French Canadian and provided the support and drive to invest in Alain’s desire to play hockey.
Hockey is colloquially known as Canada’s national sport, given that so many NHL players are initially from the country. Francine gave Alain her love of hockey, and the rest is history!
Journeyman NHL Player:
Alain Nasreddine was selected as the “135th overall pick by the Florida Panthers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.” His position as a player was a defenseman which is a role that involves blocking shots, preventing the other team from scoring and taking a lot of hits. In a nutshell, being an NHL defenseman is not glamorous; however, they are critical to any team’s success.
In his career, Nasreddine played for six NHL organizations, including their minor-league affiliates in the American Hockey League (AHL). He only played 74 games in the NHL instead of his 726 games in the AHL. When players work for multiple teams with limited action, they are typically known as journeymen in the league, which is what Nasreddine was. During his limited NHL career, he played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, and their AHL team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Nasreddine may have had a short-lived career as an NHL player, but after retiring from the league, he found his true calling as a coach and has become quite successful in that role.
NHL Coaching Career:
In recent years after retiring from playing the sport, Nasreddine became involved in coaching and has found great success there. He began his coaching career with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the AHL affiliate team of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, in 2010. In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he served as an assistant coach.
As an assistant coach in Wilkes-Barre, he served there for five years and learned the ropes of managing an NHL team, especially since the organization was run very professionally. This experience allowed Nasreddine in 2015 to make his big NHL jump when he retained the same position as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. Another four years went by, and in late 2019, the Devils asked him to be their interim head coach after their former coach, John Hynes, had been fired, who also happened to be one of Nasreddine’s early coaching mentors.
The firing of one coach, oddly enough, led to a massive opportunity for Nasreddine to be noticed on the national coaching stage in the league, which provided him with credibility and recognition, especially since he had a winning record of 19 wins, 16 losses, and eight overtime losses in the COVID-19 shortened season of 2019-2020. Finally, on July 1, 2022, Alain Nasreddine was named as one of the two assistant coaches for the Dallas Stars. His appointment as an interim head coach and now an assistant coach with Dallas also brings up the crucial points of representation and breaking barriers within the Arab community.
Alain Nasreddine: Breaking Barriers of Arab Representation in the NHL:
In the National Hockey League, Arab representation is increasing since more Arab American and Arab Canadian players are entering the sport, especially with the likes of current greats such as Nazem Kadri, who this year won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, Justin Abdelkader with the Detroit Red Wings, and Ramzi Abid who most recently played with the Nashville Predators. As for coaches, it is believed that Alain Nasreddine is the first assistant or head coach of Arab descent in the NHL! This is why his role and the recent appointment are so crucial because Nasreddine is an inspirational figure for many of Arab descent who dream to take the helm of an NHL team!
For further clarification of his status as the NHL’s first coach of Arab descent, I reached out to the Hockey Hall of Fame for comment in an email:
“I believe you are correct in your assumptions [that Nasreddine is the first coach of Arab descent in the NHL]; however, obviously not the first in hockey (as I believe the UAE, among others, have hired coaches of Arab descent in their countries,” said Philip Pritchard, Vice President, Resource Centre & Curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In addition, Nasreddine’s appointment also helps to dispel harmful and hurtful Arab stereotypes due to the increased representation of Arabs within the sport. Throughout the league, Nasreddine is well-respected for his tenacity and a never-give-up attitude which he had on the ice as a player and now as a coach. He is also well-known for hard work due to him climbing his way up from a journeyman player to now an assistant coach and the love of his Arab Lebanese heritage. In a way, Nasreddine’s career parallels the lives of many new Arab immigrants whose success stories are built on the love of their heritage, family, values, and hard work.
How did his Lebanese heritage impact him? In the interview with The Athletic, Alain Nasreddine said, “it’s such a beautiful country; you have the sea, the downtown, and Beirut has things you don’t get to see here…Lebanon also has Alain’s favorite food of Kibbeh!” Akram Nasreddine was a massive influence on his son’s life in instilling a love and respect for his Arab heritage and the values of working hard and earning success. In speaking about Alain, Akram said, “he’s a real hustler; everywhere he goes…he succeeds. He has a big heart, and he’s a good boy!” Finally, Alain Nasreddine is a history-maker who continues to break boundaries within the National Hockey League!
Arab America congratulates Alain Nasreddine on his appointment as Assistant Coach with the Dallas Stars; we are so proud of you and all your accomplishments!
A huge thank you goes to Philip Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame. We appreciate your advice and knowledge about hockey!
Claire Boyle is a contributing writer at Arab America. From January to June 2021, she was a senior intern for Arab America. Claire is a(n) historian, having earned a(n) MA in History, With Distinction, from DePaul University and a BA in Global Studies, Magna Cum Laude, with a Minor in Arabic, and an Emphasis in Interfaith Studies from Benedictine University. Claire enjoys writing about Arab World history and culture, particularly about Morocco. Morocco stole her heart on a study abroad trip five years ago; the rest is history! She also enjoys writing about Arab Americans and the importance of representation. Claire works part-time for the Arab America Foundation in membership.
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