He’s not only an American star, but also and Arab American star. Justin Abdelkader has spent nearly his entire life in Michigan. The Muskegon, Michigan has been a member of the Detroit Red Wings for the last 12 years.
Prior to getting his start in the NHL, he had suited up for the Michigan State Spartans in his college years, and spent stints early in his career with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, the Red Wings minor league affiliate.
The only time Abdelkader spent any substantial amount of time outside of Michigan was when he played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in his senior year of high school, a youth hockey club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Despite his time in Iowa, he graduated from Mona Shores High School near his hometown. It’s not just that Abdelkader grew up in Michigan, he has made himself self legendary with his level of success. He hasn’t always been a star, but he’s always been on winning teams.
In Cedar Rapids, he led the RoughRiders to the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup championship. During his time at Michigan State, Abdelkader scored the latest game-winning goal in an NCAA Frozen Four game, where he lead the Spartans to the 2007 National Championship over Boston College.
The left wing’s success in college carried over into the NHL. On April 3, 2008, Abdelkader earned a one-game amateur tryout with the Red Wings in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The next day he was signed to a three-year contract.
Though he only played in one more game with the Red Wings that season, he was a part of the team that ended up wining the Stanley Cup and was included in the team picture. On May 30, 2009, Abdelkader scored his first career goal, unbelievably, in game one of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.
On October 9, 2015 Abdelkader became the second player in Red Wings history to score a hat trick in a season opener. The next month, the Red Wings inked Abdelkader to a seven year contract worth $29.75 million.
Abdelkader has competed in three times for the United States national team at the senior level, and once at the junior level. Though a proud American, Abdelkader also shares the distinguishment of being one of the players in the NHL of Arab descent.
His grandfather, born Yousef Abdul Qadir, anglicized to Joseph Abdelkader was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, and immigrated to Michigan from Jordan.
Having just concluded his second year of his seven year deal with the Red Wings, Abdelkader hopes to lead Detroit back to the playoffs in 2018.The Red Wings missed the post-season this year, something that has never happened during Abdelkader’s tenure with the club.
Though the Red Wings will certainly have to make some improvements next season, Abdelkader, a proud Arab American, has a history of winning, and could be an integral part of more winning teams in the years to come.
by David Demaria