Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri refused to buckle in the face of death threats, racial slurs, a booing St. Louis crowd and a few post-whistle hits.
Kadri scored three goals, drew two penalties, and Colorado took a 3-1 second-round playoff series lead over the Blues following a 6-3 win at St. Louis Monday night. The game was played amidst a heightened police presence two days after Kadri became the target of racist social media posts following his collision that knocked Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington out for the rest of the series.
With Binnington watching from a team suite, Kadri scored twice — and celebrated his first goal with a salute to the crowd — during a second-period surge in which Colorado scored four times to build a 4-1 lead. He then completed his first career three-goal playoff game by putting the Avalanche up 5-3 midway through the third period.
Aside from quieting a crowd that booed him from his opening shift, Kadri also made the Blues pay for being undisciplined.
David Perron and Pavel Buchnevich each drew minor penalties for shoving Kadri from behind 5:30 into the second period. After Colorado failed to capitalize on the two-man advantage, Kadri scored what stood up as the game-winning goal seven seconds after the penalties expired.
Kadri became the focus of attention a day earlier when the Avalanche acknowledged being aware of the threats made against their player and were working with local law enforcement to investigate.
On Monday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press by e-mail that the league was in touch with St. Louis Police who were employing enhanced security procedures at both the arena and Avalanche hotel.
“We take threats made to any of our players or other club personnel seriously,” Daly said.
The AP verified the existence of Twitter posts sent to the official Avalanche team account and to Kadri’s calling him “Arab scum” and referencing terrorism. Other posts, some of which have since been deleted, included death threats. One was still up hours before Game 4.
It was not clear if the social media posts were the subject of league, team or police investigation or if there were other threats made toward Kadri, who is of Lebanese descent.
“Unfortunately people think they have the freedom to say and do whatever they want,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “But we always have security and this is no different.”
Perron, speaking before the game, called it unfortunate.
“We don’t want that to happen, obviously,” Perron said. “Hopefully it’s been taken care of. I’ll just leave it at that. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody for any reason.”
The increased security at the arena was evident with a person wearing a dark blue jacket with “St. Louis Police” printed in yellow on the back standing near the Avalanche bench as Kadri and the Avalanche took to the ice before game time.
Kadri was booed upon taking his first shift a little over a minute into the game, as well as each time he touched the puck. The crowd roared when Kadri’s first shift ended with him being confronted by Blues forward Brayden Schenn at the benches.
Former NHL player Akim Aliu told the AP by text message he has been in constant communication with Kadri and added, “All we can really do is support him morally.”
“Naz has been subject to so many racist attacks and threats since last night that police had to be brought in,” tweeted Aliu, who is Nigerian-Canadian. “Racist attacks like this have no place in hockey and should be investigated and reported on.”
Aliu and Kadri are members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which works toward eradicating systemic racism and intolerance in hockey, and help in making the sport more accessible to minorities and underprivileged youth.
The NHL has several layers of security in place, including club personnel and additional services provided by the home team that are in constant communication with the league’s security department. That department activates in situations such as this one and can work with federal and local law enforcement, when necessary.
The league, with input from the NHL Players’ Association established a confidential hotline to which players can report harassment, discrimination or other serious misconduct. It’s operated by a third party, with the ability to make reports by phone, email or online anonymously or with attribution.