Before legends are etched in silver, they’re born in brimstone. You’ll tell your grandchildren about Nazem Kadri. Who will tell their grandchildren. And their grandchildren after that.
“There are always going to be critics. But you don’t let them bring you down,” Hifa Fayad texted Wednesday morning from the Middle East. “Rather, you rise above them and get the job done. And that is what Naz and the Avs did.”
Ten times, the Avalanche trailed in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. Ten times, they rallied back to win.
On a team that was too talented to stop and too stubborn to roll over, none among on the 2021-22 NHL champs embodied both ideals more than Kadri, who played with a child’s joy and a prophet’s purpose.
“In our religion we have a saying: ‘After hardship comes ease,’” Fayad, a relative of Kadri’s who teaches at Aurora’s Crescent View Academy, said of the Avs, who’ll celebrate the franchise’s first Cup title in 21 years Thursday with a parade through downtown Denver.
“(Naz) was tested. And he rose above and beyond to shine through it all. As the Avs fans say, ‘The Kadri Man Can.’ And he did.”
He countered hate with love, cynics with smiles and cheap shots with goals. He wore his heart on his sleeve and his scars like gilded badges of honor.
Cast by the NHL cognoscenti as a hockey villain, Kadri flipped the script and the map. He took the high road to glory, The Hero’s Journey to redemption, chased by ghosts at every turn.
Jordan Binnington. Blues fans. Evander Kane. A broken thumb. His past.
With one healthy hand, Kadri managed to outskate the lot, to get his mitts around the Stanley Cup before his demons could catch up to him.
“It was heartbreaking, for sure,” Fayad said, referring to racist threats against Kadri during the playoffs. “And as Nazem had mentioned, this isn’t something new for him, unfortunately.
“But good always outweighs evil. And the support he got was indescribable.
“Nazem should be seen like all other great players. It takes years of sacrifice, practice and dedication to get where Naz is. He deserves this. This should be celebrated.”
Fayad — Kadri likes to call her “Aunt Hifa” — has been celebrating these last few weeks from afar, watching the Cup Final before the crack of dawn while traveling between Palestine and Jordan, usually via her laptop or phone.
Aunt Hifa credits Kadri with turning her into a hockey fan, full-stop. Which is why she and her daughter were up at 5:30 a.m. Monday at the family’s vacation home in Palestine, celebrating with loved ones as they livestreamed paradise, watching the Avs close out the Cup Final over the Lightning in six games.
“It’s been amazing and emotional. I’m so proud of his accomplishments,” Fayad said. “The fans have been amazing! He has my support, the support of a large, caring family and an even larger amazing (Denver) hockey community.”
Naz digs it here, Aunt Hifa says. He digs that it’s a family-oriented community. He digs the golf. He digs his teammates. But considering that he’s soon to become an unrestricted free agent at 31, coming off the best season of his career, she also doesn’t want to speculate on No. 91’s professional future. Not while there’s more celebrating to do.
“The first Muslim to have his name on the Cup!” Fayad said. “I believe (this) will inspire young Muslims to pursue their dreams — the sky’s the limit. It means a lot to him and those who love him.”
We’ll always have Tampa. We’ll always have The Shot, the puck that stuck to the back of the net with such force that it dethroned a king.
We’ll always have the hat trick in St. Louis, one of the greatest rebuttals in Cup lore.
“There are too many (moments) to choose from,” Fayad said. “Among my favorites were his poised responses after the (St. Louis) hate, his hat-trick game (against the Blues) and the emotional moment when he shared the ice and the Cup (in Tampa) with his family.”
Winners write history.
“Him and the boys deserve this celebration! It’s going to be a good time,” Fayad said. “Like all the game days, on the parade day, my heart is in Denver.”
And with one Avs skater in particular, rising above every hardship. When it comes to legends, Lord Stanley never lies.