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.

Sam Kadri Becomes Second Muslim to Play in the National Hockey League

Eighteen year-old centre Sam Kadri will be the second Muslim to play in the NHL when he suits up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who selected him with the seventh pick in the 2009 draft. Canada’s increasing diversity hasn’t been quickly reflected in the nation’s favourite sport. Born and raised in Montreal, Ramzi Abid was the first Muslim to play in the NHL after being selected in the second round by the Phoenix Coyotes 11 years ago. He played 68 games for the Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators. But his brief foray into the NHL received little attention. Kadri has received far more attention in Toronto.

“If this has a ripple effect on the young players in the Muslim community to take up hockey, then that’s a wonderful side effect,” Leafs GM Brian Burke said. “If that increases our player pool in a part of society we’re not touching right now, that’s great.”