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Stanley Cup visits Toronto mosque to help celebrate Industry Growth Fund

by Mike Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO — Huzaifah Motala’s eyes grew wide with awe. So too did those of the other 30-plus kids at the Abu Bakr Mosque in Scarborough.

The children, members of the Scarborough Muslim Ball Hockey Association, had been told they were going to get a visit from a friend named Stan. Little did they know that Stan was short for the Stanley Cup.

So when hockey’s holy grail was carried into the mosque’s gymnasium by a representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, the looks on many of the young faces were priceless.

“It’s so, so big,” said Motala, an 11-year-old defenseman.

Does he hope to lift it one day after winning it with an NHL team, he was asked?

“Maybe,” he said, breaking into a wide grin.

Thanks to the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund, the First Shift program, and efforts from community leaders like Abu Hafejee, Huzaifah and his friends have an avenue to do exactly that.

The NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, allocates dedicated funds in conjunction with the 32 NHL teams to support a diverse fan base and offer unique hockey opportunities. One of the programs associated with the fund is called the NHL/NHLPA First Shift, which is designed to ease kids and their families into the sport of hockey in a fun and friendly environment.

Thanks to Hafejee, who reached out to see if these programs were applicable to the SMBHA, these kids, primarily ages 5 to 11, now have the chance to go from ball hockey to ice hockey. And, on this particular night, get the thrill of seeing the Stanley Cup.

“I would definitely say the joy on the kids’ faces is the highlight,” he said. “I think for a lot of them, it just seems so far-fetched to have the Stanley Cup in our community. So the joy when they heard it was here and seeing their reaction when it was wheeled into the room, it was amazing.”

The same could be said for the efforts and leadership of Hafejee, who has produced one of the many feel-good stories the Industry Growth Fund and First Shift Program are helping to promote.

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