After the Avalanche’s charter flight landed in Denver Tuesday afternoon, coach Jared Bednar said he had gotten wind of displayed examples of the venomous, ignorant and racist attacks and threats made against Nazem Kadri.
“I haven’t seen them yet,” Bednar said. “I mean, it was tough on him for a while and it’s something, like I said, that’s completely unnecessary. Something he shouldn’t have to go through, ever.”
This was the afternoon after Kadri’s storybook-style hat trick as the Avalanche beat the Blues 6-3 in St. Louis and took a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
On Tuesday, Kadri’s wife, Ashley, on Instagram shared screen shots of examples of hateful messages and wrote: “I wanted to shine light on what the last 48 hours has looked like for us as a family. This is just a small example. There are many more. This behavior doesn’t belong in sports, or anywhere. If you are not condemning racism, then you are tolerating it.”
Kadri’s Game 4 effort under strenuous circumstances could even be labeled as fitting for a Disneyesque tale of triumph with the Avalanche center in the starring role.
Except Disney tends to stay away from the sort of ugliness involved in the reaction from the fringe after Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen got entangled and collided with St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington early in Game 3.
That knocked Binnington out for the rest of the series with an apparent knee injury.
Then, in an era when (mostly) anonymous threats are facilitated by social media, the ugly responses began, necessitating extra security for Kadri.
But he got the ultimate retribution.
“I’m sure he was happy with his performance,” Bednar said of Kadri. “There’s no question. I talked to him prior, like at the morning skate and all that about staying focused and disciplined. I talked to him during a little bit and spoke with him after the game briefly. I just loved the way he handled the situation. I’m proud of him.”
The pivotal point of the game was, with the Avalanche leading 3-1, the Blues’ Pavel Buchnevich and David Perron took separate runs at Kadri and both drew minors at 5:30 of the second period, giving Colorado a 5-on-3 power play.
Given the expectation that the potential for retributive mayhem was heightened if the game got out of hand (when Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore in the infamous 2004 game in Vancouver, the Avalanche led 5-0 in the third period) it seemed a weird concession that the Blues were waving the white flag — and hoping to get some blood on it.
Kadri’s second goal came at 7:37 of the second, so it technically wasn’t a power-play goal. It effectively was, though. And after the Blues closed to within 4-3, the Avalanche finished the job, including with Kadri’s third goal and Mikko Rantanen’s empty netter.
It was crucial that Bednar’s team didn’t lose tempers or poise, or respond to goading. That part wasn’t just Kadri.
“I thought our group did an awesome job of staying focused on the task at hand and not worrying about all the stuff that really doesn’t have an impact on our game, especially Naz,” Bednar said. “The 48 hours prior to that were hectic for him and disturbing. For him to be able to do that, I expected the rest of the team to be able to do that as well.”
At some point, should the extracurricular stuff be over?
“In our mind, it is over,” Bednar said. “We tried to put it behind us before yesterday’s game.”
Somewhat overshadowed was the fact that the Avalanche got within one win of avoiding being eliminated in the second round for the fourth year in a row, and taking the series likely would eliminate the tiresome conjecture that Bednar’s job might be in jeopardy because of perceived underachievement.
“It feels good,” Bednar said Tuesday. “We have to get ready to play our best game against St. Louis. It’s a team facing elimination and they’re going to come with their best game. We have to bring ours as well.” He added that winning Game 5 and not sending the series back to St. Louis would be “huge. It’s our home game, we’re sitting in a real good spot, right where we need to be. So now we have to come back and play our best performance of the series.”
As he had Monday, he again passed on the opportunity to blast St. Louis coach Craig Berube for his no-comment stance on the threats against Kadri, and the Blues organization for not decisively disowning the hateful responses.
“I just think you’re in the middle of a series … they have a focus with their team just like we do with ours,” Bednar said. “It’s not their player. It didn’t surprise me they didn’t have a lot of comment on it.”
NOTE: Bednar said fourth-liner Andrew Cogliano, who struggled off the ice after blocking a shot and played only two shifts in the the third period in Game 4, was OK. “Everybody’s good to go,” Bednar said. . . Mikko Rantanen and Bo Byram were the two players made available to the media after the Avalanche flight landed Tuesday. Both echoed teammates Erik Johnson and Darcy Kuemper, who after the game Monday night expressed support and appreciation — plus perhaps even awe — of Kadri’s performance in Game 4.
Terry Frei (email@example.com, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His website is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here