Nazem Kadri has just won the Stanley Cup and signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Flames. Nazem Kadri’s time in Calgary has got off to an impressive start.
He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in eight games and has earned the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, who often goes off the rails when the team needs a goal or defends an lead.
His new teammates have praised the veteran center’s leadership qualities, which the Flames will look to if they hope to make a playoff run of their own next spring.
Kadri is also one of the more dynamic personalities in the league. In the summer, he became the first NHLer to bring the Stanley Cup to a mosque and donated $1 million to the London Health Sciences Centre.
Kadri spoke to TSN about his relationship with Sutter and how he tries to make an impression off the ice.
TSN: Your career in Calgary got off to a good start. YThey produce at over a Point-a-game pace. How was the fit here with the Flames?
squad: “It has obviously been a great start so far. I have to compliment my teammates for allowing this to happen and for me to come in and be comfortable and try to play my best hockey. As a team, I think we still have a few things to sort out, but we’re on the right track.”
We see you talking to Darryl Sutter a lot. He’s a coach that many people would consider a strong addition. How was this relationship in the beginning?
“It was great. He’s obviously a very respected guy and he shows us a lot of respect, especially the older group and the guys that were there and did that. I have nothing but great things to say about him. He’s a great Xs-and-Os guy. He’s preparing very well and it’s fun to play for him.”
We see one version of him in the media and at press conferences and you see a very different side of him. What is the difference between Media Darryl Sutter and Dressing Room Darryl Sutter?
“Yes, that’s the best. I’m not sure if there’s a big difference, so it’s probably quite entertaining for you guys. But at the end of the day, he wants certain details to be done the way he’s used to, and that’s proven effective over his years. So obviously something is working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I think he’s doing a good job of getting his message across.”
Is there a special moment that you like best or that makes you smile?
“No not really. Honestly, off hockey he’s such a nice guy, great guy, very caring. We obviously share that we’re Stanley Cup champions and I brought my ring and we watched it us together and he wanted to see him. He has great things to say and he has great advice.”
I think a lot of people were really excited to see you in the Battle of Alberta where you’re up against some of the best centers in the league. You’ve got quite a few of these under your belt now. What was it like being in what might be the best rivalry in hockey right now?
“It really is one of them, that’s for sure. I think the quality of both teams alone makes it exciting. They’re a great couple of teams that compete at every game and obviously the location isn’t too far away and they both have great fan bases. It was fun and I look forward to many more in the future.”
You were a part of some of them. With the Leafs, every team they play seems to be part of a rivalry…Boston, Montreal, Ottawa. For example, how does the Battle of Alberta compare to the Battle of Ontario?o, or the rivalry between Leafs and Habs?
“Certainly similar. I think there’s even the Battle of Ontario between Toronto and Ottawa and many other rivalries. That’s what you get with history. Historic fanbases that when you get together it’s going to be a good game.”
And it’s often said of Darryl Sutter that he knows how to keep a group balanced – nnot too high, not too low. They’re a team that’s expected to possibly make a Stanley Cup run. How does he keep you motivated at the start of a season?
“Well, I think you just approach a season in segments and don’t look too far forward or backward. It’s important to stay present, to stay in the moment. It’s 82 games, whether you have the best game of your life or the worst game of your life. The next day all you have to do is turn the page and focus on what’s in front of you.”
Off the rink you’ve had perhaps one of the more compelling careers in the National Hockey League, coming from Toronto, Colorado and winning the Stanley Cup, and now you’re settled in Calgary at the long haul. And your career has had its ups and downs. Was there a turning point or a time that was decisive for your career and the next step?
“For me as a player, I’m a very competitive person, so every year I try to improve as much as I can and work on my weaknesses. You have to remember that you want that longevity and your career is only a certain period of time in your whole life, so you want to give everything you have and maximize your potential. I think by moving from Toronto to Colorado I was obviously trying to take my game to the next level. As part of a competitive team, you want to deliver and make your mark for the fans in town.”
I read that you are very into Kobe Bryant and this “mamba mentality”. What has that meant to you in your career so far?
“Everything. It helped me a lot, just that visualization and the mental aspect of being a professional sport. It’s hectic at times and you have to understand how to deal with that and keep your game consistent. As I mentioned before, having that short term memory and , no matter what, just keep going.”
When fans see you on the ice, they see a guy going 110 PEright cent. Seems like you’ve embraced that off the ice too. They are considered a role model for Muslims and people throughout the hockey world and beyond. How did you approach your role as a Muslim player in ice hockey? who is Performance at a very high level?
“Just try to lead by example. Of course I’m not perfect, but I don’t really try to be either. I just accept who I am and try to bring a positive attitude and a fun attitude to the rink and doing my job every day. Being a minority in this league I think is a game changer for the younger generation. I would have liked to have had someone who looked like me to look up to when I was younger, but obviously that wasn’t the case. I think the game is starting to go in that direction, which is great to see.”
Growing up in sports, I know that people sacrifice certain parts of their identity in order to conform, whether it’s the way people say your name or dismiss certain comments or the way you look. Did you have to make these sacrifices early on to fit into a sport where people didn’t look like you?
“Yes and no. I think I’ve always done pretty well staying true to myself and being who I am. I think maybe more recently in my career it rubbed some people the wrong way, but you start, that’s what to appreciate and admire about someone throughout their career, staying true to yourself and being who you are is most important.”
I spoke to Brian Burke and he said that meeting your wife and having your daughter was probably a turning point for you. How does the fact that you now have a family of your own change your perspective or point of view on these things?
“You have to consider other people’s feelings, don’t you? I think it’s becoming more of a selfless approach when it comes to getting off the ice. At the end of the day everyone desires a happy, healthy family and I am blessed to have this opportunity.”
You wrote that you can’t wait to show and tell your daughter what it means to be a Muslim in North America. So what does it mean to be Muslim in North America?
“That means a lot. Those are my roots. That’s where I came from. That’s a big part of my foundation, with those principles and values that I was taught and carry to this day, and they’ve made me who I am today am.”
What goes through the mind of a guy who takes the Stanley Cup to the mosque he grew up in?
“Definitely a lot of excitement. Every time you get to be the first person to do something, it’s a surreal moment and a bit of a wake-up call just to see how excited everyone was. That’s part of the story now, so it’s always fun to achieve that.”
Finally – I know it’s too soon for you to speak about your legacy and how you will be remembered, but in the last 12 months you’ve won the Stanley Cup, made a huge donation to your home hospital, and countless other things . How do you think you will look back on this time of your life?
“One day I’ll be able to take a trip down memory lane and really appreciate and be grateful for what I’ve been able to achieve. As I mentioned before, throughout your career you want to maximize everything you can and you’re being put on that pedestal, you’re being given that platform, and you want to do your best to help others as well. It’s far from over. I still have a lot more to give and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”
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