Muslim NHL Toronto Leafs Player Under Pressure to Build Bridges

Toronto Star – September 26, 2010
Nazem Kadri survived Sunday’s round of cuts that chopped the Maple Leafs’ pre-season roster to 30 players — 23 will open the season. But whether he is on the roster on opening night or has to spend time with the AHL Marlies, it’s virtually assured Kadri will be with the Leafs for a significant portion of the season and in his career to come. There’s more pressure on him than on most other 19-year-olds because he’s a visible minority in a mostly white pursuit and a Muslim in a mostly Christian arena. He noted: “Hockey is going to become more multicultural. People from all different backgrounds and religions are going to be coming into the game of hockey. That’s good for the sport, that’s good for all communities.” Kadri certainly isn’t the first prominent Muslim athlete — Muhammad Ali and Hakeem Olajuwan long ago broke those barriers. But he could become the first prominent Muslim hockey player.

Medina Ball Hockey League Breaks for Prayer in East Toronto

The Milliken Mills Community Centre in Markham, Ontario is home to an active mostly-Muslim ball hockey league. The Madina league has eight teams, each with about 16 to 18 players. They meet every Friday night in Markham, battling towards the Madina Cup in mid-August. “The best time to play ball hockey is the nighttime, around the sunset or after the sunset,” because there are fewer prayers, said Habib, 33, as the players, bowing on a white mat in the corner of the rink, observe the fourth prayer of the day. Players shout encouragement, but there is little to no swearing. Swearing in tournament play will result in a penalty and could mean a suspension, said Habib. “We are trying to teach the religion as much as possible, and that is hard to do if you are allowing bodychecks or fighting.”

There are more than 400 Muslims playing organized ball hockey across Greater Toronto, and interest in the connection between the community and the sport is at a high. Last month, the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted their first Muslim player, Nazem Kadri.

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