London’s Nazem Kadri overcomes injury, racist threats to win his first Stanley Cup

It was a long road to get there, but you could see the joy on Nazem Kadri’s face when he lifted hockey’s Holy Grail over his head Sunday night.

The London, Ont. native silenced all doubters with a gutsy playoff performance helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-2 series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup final.

“For everyone that thought I was a liability in the playoffs, you can kiss my a**,” Kadri told Sportsnet’s David Amber and Elliotte Friedman on the live broadcast.

Kadri has infamously been suspended three different times in the playoffs, but he was a key player for the Avalanche in this post season, scoring 15 points in 16 games.

He did that with a broken thumb which didn’t even allow him to tie his own skates at times.

“We turned a six week timeline in the two weeks,” Kadri told TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.

“That says enough. I had so many great people in my corner working on me constantly every single day to try to get back to try to get better. And, you know, I certainly wasn't going to leave these guys hanging on the ice. So I did everything I could to come back,” he added.

On the ice after the win he celebrated with his family including his father Samir and mother Sue.

Back in London, his former London Knights coach Dale Hunter grinned at the mention of Kadri’s name.

“When they start here when they're young and they go on to play and we everybody watches them play and they root for the guys,” said Hunter referring to Kadri’s two seasons in London from 2008 - 2010.

‘It’s awesome Nazem won one. He’s a great character guy and for him to come through all the adversities, play great and score the winning goal [in game 4], that's great for him,” he added.

Kadri is believed to be the first Muslim-born player to etch his name on the cup.

“If anybody deserves that hoist that cup, it’s him,” said Nawaz Tahir, chair of Hikma, a London Muslim advocacy group.

“After all that he's been through just physically and even in the Stanley Cup run, that the hate that was directed at him in the one series, he just deserves it so much,” Tahir said.

Tahir said this win will mean a lot of the Muslim community in London, as representation matters.

“For a community that's been through a lot of grief, to see one of our own have that special moment, it's an inspiration,” Tahir said. “I definitely think there's going to be a lot of Muslim kids running around this summer playing road hockey pretending to score the game winning goal in the Stanley Cup now.”

Kadri has been open about the Islamophobia he’s faced during his career. It surfaced again during the semi-final series against St. Louis when his wife took to Instagram to share screenshots of racist messages he and his family received after a collision with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington last month.

"I wanted to shine light on what the last 48 hours has looked like for us as a family," Kadri’s wife Ashley wrote. "This is just a small example. There are many more. This behaviour doesn’t belong in sports, or anywhere. If you are not condemning racism, then you are tolerating it."

Kadri grew up in London with his paternal grandparents and father Sam, who hail from Lebanon.

He started the Nazem Kadri Foundation, in which through his annual golf tournament money is raised for local social services.

While it’s too early to plan any Stanley Cup celebration for the City of London, it’s possible the cup will return to the Forest City this summer.

“I was just grateful and I get to, you know, share this with so many people,” Kadri told TSN.

“I love my teammates my family, management, all the fans in Denver. This incredible feeling, it's better than I thought it would feel, and man, it's awesome,” he added.