“For Those That Hate, The Hat Trick Was For Them”: Colorado Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri Confronts Anti-Arab and Muslim Hate in the NHL
By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer
Nazem Kadri is a Canadian Lebanese and Muslim forward who currently plays in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche are currently in the NHL Playoffs, and they won their second-round Western Conference Semifinals Series against the St. Louis Blues; however, these games, unfortunately, saw an ugly instance of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred directed towards Kadri.
On May 21, 2022, during Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Kadri and the St. Louis Blues defenseman, Calle Rosen, crashed during a normal hockey play and this hit resulted in the Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington, becoming injured which forced the goalie out of the series due to his injury. The play was deemed a legal hit because Kadri was not assessed a penalty and no further action was taken against him by the NHL.
After the game ended and through Game 4, Kadri was subjected to vicious social media posts about his Arab identity, and his Muslim faith and he even received death threats from St. Louis Blues fans due to an unintentional play that unfortunately caused an injury as so many hockey plays do.
Jordan Binnington: A Pattern of Discrimination Against Nazem Kadri and Muslims:
In the aftermath of the play, Binnington threw a water bottle at Kadri’s face. During Game 4, Blues forward, David Perron, cross-checked Kadri (as in ramming his stick into Kadri) as revenge which is an illegal play, and Perron was only fined when he could have been suspended.
Binnington was recently asked why he threw the water bottle at Kadri, and in a rather immature tone, he replied “it was a God-given opportunity,” and he did not apologize to Kadri either. In addition, in a game in October, Binnington also swung his stick at Kadri’s head which is also an illegal play for which the Blues goaltender received a 10-minute penalty.
Binnington’s behavior against Kadri continues a pattern of anti-Muslim discrimination that the Blues goaltender has shown over the years including when he made derogatory comments about Muslim women wearing the burqa as a teenager.
In 2013, as a teenager, Binnington said in a tweet:
Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim Hatred on Social Media:
**Warning: social media posts sometimes contain graphic language and hints of violence
In between the games, St. Louis Blues and other NHL fans around the league subjected Kadri to horrible posts about wishing and threatening his death, calling him every swear word in the book, and even discriminating against Nazem due to him being Arab, Muslim, and an immigrant. These hateful comments just illustrate how the NHL’s recent anti-racism initiatives instituted in January 2022 have not been effective.
Most of these initiatives are targeted at the players, coaches, owners, staff, and team leadership; however, not many educational initiatives have been directed toward the fans.
These social media posts show how pervasive racism and discrimination are in sports, but particularly, in the NHL as the league itself is not very diverse, and as seen on social media, the fans are not inclusive of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) players either. These fans contributed to anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination, and the vitriol that Kadri received led the Colorado Avalanche management to report the death threats to the St. Louis Police Department.
A 2020 poll done by FiveThirtyEight, showed that the average percentage of White players in the NHL is about 90%. In addition, the poll illustrated how hockey’s fan base of all the major US sports has the largest percentage of White fans at about 77.1%, and finally, FiveThirtyEight’s analysis elucidated that only 22.1% of fans identify themselves as liberal which was only 3% higher than fans who follow NASCAR.
These comments are disgraceful and hateful, and it shows how Arab Muslim players are targets for discrimination, and the fans who said these terrible things about Kadri should be ashamed of themselves. The fact that NHL fans are angrier about the collision that led to Binnington’s injury than the violent social media attacks against Kadri is sickening.
There is no room for discrimination in hockey let alone anywhere else. In the big picture, this was just a hockey game; race, ethnicity, and identity should have not even been an issue. These hockey fans were over the top, and there is no place in the sport for these racist comments. Words matter and can lead to real harm, and given all the recent violence and hate crimes in the United States, these comments are unacceptable.
Arab and Muslim Representation in Hockey:
Nazem Kadri has a very important role in the NHL that goes beyond his awesome hockey skills. He is a representative of both the Arab and Muslim communities given that according to Colorado Public Radio, he is the only Muslim player in the league. It is sad and despicable in 2022 that Arab Muslims are still subjected to this abuse, racism, and discrimination.
Kadri is a role model for young Arabs and Muslims who want to play professional hockey, but by allowing this racist conduct by the fans, this hatred will continue to prevent diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives from being effective in the league. Despite being subjected to harmful comments, Kadri continues to show grace, class, and a willingness to move past the racism displayed by St. Louis Blues and other NHL fans. These racist comments could potentially deter Arab and Muslim players from chasing their dreams to play in the NHL if they do not feel safe and accepted.
Kadri’s Charity Work, Lebanese Heritage, and Background:
In fact, Kadri is very giving to the community. He has established the Nazem Kadri Foundation whose goal is to raise money for mental health initiatives and to fund recovery efforts in Lebanon following the explosion in Beirut in 2020. In the past, he has supported Muslim social services, children in need, brain tumor research, Canadian food banks, and breast cancer screening.
Kadri’s grandparents emigrated from the Lebanese village of Kfar Danis to Canada, and the family settled in Ontario. He is the fourth Lebanese Canadian to play in the NHL after John Hanna, Ed Hatoum, and Alain Nasreddine. He began his hockey career when Kadri was drafted by his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in 2009, and later on, he was traded to the American hockey team, the Colorado Avalanche in 2019.
In addition, Kadri is also one of the NHL’s “inaugural executive board members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which is one of the league’s initiatives to fight intolerance and racism in hockey.” Despite this amazing work, as shown above, he became a victim of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred in the NHL. In addition to his diversity and charity work, he has been chosen by NHL fans to participate twice in the league’s All-Star games in the 2010 and 2022 contests.
To further his goodwill and charity work, he has been identified as the Colorado Avalanche’s nominee for the NHL’s 2022 King Clancy Memorial Trophy awarded to the player who “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.”
The aftermath of the Incident and Conclusion:
Kadri ended up getting the last laugh against the St. Louis Blues! In the next game, he ended up scoring a hat-trick meaning he scored three goals in one game which is a rare occurrence in the NHL, let alone in the playoffs! It just so happened to be his first career playoff hat-trick, and then the Avalanche eventually won their series against the Blues in six games.
When asked in a post-game interview about the significance of the hat-trick, Kadri said “for those that hate, the hat-trick was for them!” The Colorado Avalanche moved on to face the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals which is the third round of four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and many other Avalanche players have said, they would not have gotten this far without Kadri’s contributions! On a final note, it is an exciting moment to cheer on an Arab and Muslim player in the NHL Playoffs!
-In a quick update, the Colorado Avalanche won their first game in the Western Conference Finals on May 31, 2022, against the Edmonton Oilers, 8-6. Kadri also scored another goal in Game 1 as well! Only three more wins until they reach the Stanley Cup Finals!
-In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Kadri assisted on three goals. The Avalanche ended up winning 4-0, and they are only two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals! Kadri was awarded these assists all in a two-minute span of one period which is incredibly hard to do!
-The Colorado Avalanche won Game 3, 4-2 on Saturday night in Edmonton. Nazem Kadri ended up getting hit from behind by Edmonton Oilers forward, Evander Kane, and he went straight into the hockey arena’s boards which was an incredibly dangerous play. Kadri left the game and is out for the remainder of the series if not longer if they go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Kane was given a five-minute major penalty for the cheap hit that came from behind. Hopefully, Nazem will bounce back soon, and get back to full health!
-The Colorado Avalanche (Avs) won Game 4, 6-5 in overtime, and with that win, they are now headed to the Stanley Cup Finals! The Avs won the series 4 games to 0. In a quick update, TSN reported that after Nazem Kadri ended up getting pushed into the boards (boarding) in Saturday’s game, he “underwent thumb surgery, and it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to return for the Stanley Cup.” The Colorado Avalanche have been declared Western Conference Champions, and they will move onto the Stanley Cup Finals to face either the New York Rangers or the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Eastern Conference Finals are finally decided!
Stanley Cup Finals:
Nazem Kadri returned from an injury in to play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals! The Avalanche won Game 4, 3-2 in overtime with the game-winning goal coming from Kadri! He had been out for over two weeks and came back strong to win it for the Avalanche! In winning Game 4, the Avalanche led the series, 3-1, but they lost Game 5, and now the series has Colorado leading 3 games to 2 games. Only time will tell if the Avalanche and Kadri can close it out and win, to become Stanley Cup Champions, tomorrow night, June 26, 2022, at 8 PM ET, in Tampa Bay!
For now, it’s only 1 win until the Avalanche team becomes Stanley Cup Champions! Can they close it out on Sunday night? We will see!
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