One of hockey’s annual traditions is the Stanley Cup world tour. Players from the NHL’s reigning championship team take turns during the offseason getting some me-time with the sport’s most coveted trophy, often bringing it to their respective hometowns for hero’s-welcome parades and public appearances.
Usually, it’s a feel-good affair where players take the opportunity to bask in their recently-achieved glory and celebrate what for many hockey players is a childhood dream come true.
But you could forgive Nazim Kadri if his personal run with the Stanley Cup this past summer had some snarl to go with his smile. It’d be hard to blame the 31-year-old Canadian for taking time between reveling with his fans to rub the noses of his haters in his championship triumph.
When Kadri helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in June — contributing seven goals and eight assists during the team’s postseason run — he became the first Muslim player to hoist the Cup. When he was taken with the No. 7 pick in the 2009 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri was the highest drafted Muslim in league history (he was later topped by Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick in 2012).
Unsurprisingly, Kadri hasn’t been warmly embraced by every hockey fan that knows his background. His career — which includes one All-Star selection, 512 regular-season points, and 44 playoff points — has been marked by anti-Muslim verbal and online abuse from people who have a problem with his religion.
The Islamophobic and racist treatment Kadri received became a mainstream media storyline during Colorado’s Stanley Cup run. That Kadri and the Avalanche won the whole thing made it an inspirational story instead of merely a sad and infuriating one.
In August, Kadri brought the Cup to his native London, Ontario, which included a visit to a local mosque. It was likely the first time the Stanley Cup had ever been inside a mosque.
“It’s part of my background, part of my roots and part of who I am,” Kadri told NHL.com about his homecoming. “There’s a reason why I brought it out and showcased it because I think the community deserves it. They’ve been cheering me on from the start, so I wanted to share it with everybody.”
In the same month that he took his Stanley Cup victory lap, Kadri left the Avalanche and signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Calgary Flames as a free agent.