Avalanche forward Nazem Qadri refused to bow down to death threats, racial slurs, St. Louis crowds and some of the subsequent hits of the whistle.
Qadri scored three goals, drew two penalties, and Colorado took a 3-1 second-round playoff series lead over the Blues after a 6-3 win on Monday night. The game was played amid a heavy police presence two days after Qadri became the target of a racist social media post that left Blues goalkeeper Jordan Binnington out for the rest of the series.
With Binnington watching from a team suit, Qadri scored twice – and celebrated his first goal with a salute to the crowd – during a second period increase in which Colorado scored four times to take a 4-1 lead. He then finished his first career three-goal playoff game by topping the Avalanche 5–3 in the middle of the third period.
Besides pacifying the crowd that had booed him with his opening innings, Qadri also paid the Blues for being undisciplined.
David Peron and Pavel Buknevich scored minor penalties to push Qadri past 5:30 into the second period. After failing to capitalize on the Colorado Two-Man Advantage, Qadri scored the game-winning goal seven seconds after the penalty ended.
Qadri became the center of attention a day earlier when Avalanche admitted to being aware of the threats made against his player and was working with local law enforcement to investigate.
On Monday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press by email that the league was in contact with St. Louis Police, who were stepping up security procedures at both the arena and the Avalanche Hotel.
“We take threats made to any of our players or other club personnel seriously,” Daly said.
The Associated Press verified the existence of Twitter posts sent to the official Avalanche Team account by Qadri calling them “Arab scum” and mentioning terrorism. Other posts, some of which have since been deleted, include threats of death. There was also one a few hours before Game 4.
It was not clear whether the social media posts were the subject of a league, team or police investigation or other threats towards Qadri, who is of Lebanese descent.
“Unfortunately people feel 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.”
Peron called it “unfortunate” while speaking before the game.
“We don’t want that to happen, obviously,” Perron said. “Hopefully that’s taken care of. I’ll just leave it at that. You don’t want to see this happen to anyone for whatever reason.”
Increased security in the arena was evident with a man wearing a dark blue jacket emblazoned with “St.” Louis Police” printed in yellow on the back standing near the avalanche bench as Qadri and Avalanche move into the snow ahead of game time.
Qadri was impatient every time he touched the puck, with his first innings in the game taking a little over a minute. The crowd roared at the end of Qadri’s first innings and he was faced by Blues forward Breden Shane on the bench.
Former NHL player Akim Aliu told the Associated Press by text message that he is in constant contact with Qadri, adding, “We can really only support him morally.”
Nigerian-Canadian Aliu tweeted: “Naz has been receiving so many racist attacks and threats since last night that the police had to be called.” “Racist attacks like this have no place in hockey and should be investigated and reported.”
Aliyu and Qadri are members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which works toward ending systemic racism and intolerance in hockey, and helping to make the sport more accessible to minorities and disadvantaged youth.
The NHL has several levels of security, including additional services provided by club personnel and the home team who are in constant communication with the league’s security department. That department is proactive in situations like this and can work with federal and local law enforcement when necessary.
The league, with input from the NHL Players Association, established a confidential hotline where players can report harassment, discrimination or other serious misconduct. It is operated by a third party, with the ability to report anonymously or with attribution by phone, email or online.