//

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: “The health of our country has taken a major hit, especially among children, I’d love to see our youth turn it around”

with NHL Star Justin Abdelkader


A movement I would love to get behind is creating a well-rounded education for kids that emphasizes the importance of health and wellness in addition to traditional curriculum. The education would involve children learning how to grow their own food and witness firsthand the value in whole, nutritious foods. The health of our country has taken a major hit, especially among children, and I would love to see our youth turn it around.

As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Abdelkader, an American ice hockey left wing and alternate captain for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. Justin has played for the Detroit Red Wings his entire professional career after being drafted by the organization in 2005, and recently scored his 100th career goal. He and his wife, Julie, support Abby’s All Stars: Red Wings for Reading program and are passionate advocates for healthy lifestyles and continuing education. Justin is a Michigan native and Michigan State University Alumni. Abdelkader published his first children’s book, Shoot for the Goal — The Justin Abdelkader Story, in 2018.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I had always dreamed of being an NHL player from the time I received a Detroit Red Wings jersey at five years old. I spent my entire childhood and teen years working as hard as I could to become an elite hockey player, and eventually played for Michigan State University before being drafted 42nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 2005. I’ve been on the roster since 2008.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Definitely being drafted by the team I rooted for as a kid. I don’t think too many professional athletes have an opportunity to say that. It was always my dream to be an NHL player, and I always wanted to play for the Detroit Red Wings. I achieved a lot of team success in scoring the winning goal in the 2007 NCAA Ice Hockey Championship and then the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Never stop working to better yourself, and always believe in yourself and that anything is possible with the right attitude and dedication.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m very proud to be the founder of Abby’s All-Stars, which is part of the Red Wings for Reading program. Through this program, I meet with and encourage kindergarten through fifth grade students across Michigan to read three or more books for their grade level each year, and to adopt healthy lifestyles, like eating well and exercising regularly.

I’m also very fortunate to have recently published my first children’s book, Shoot for the Goal — The Justin Abdelkader Story, which highlights my childhood dream of becoming an NHL player and the perseverance it took to get there. It also includes how I went back to college to earn my degree after being drafted by the Red Wings and how anyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard enough.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

I’m passionate about using my platform as a professional athlete to encourage kids of all ages to never stop reading and to work hard in the classroom. I believe reading can open doors for children, and recently having a child of my own only further pushes me to serve as a positive role model.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

I have always enjoyed working with children, whether it be at the children’s hospital, youth hockey camps or through my reading program. I believe I can have a positive impact on children as it is incredibly important they have influential role models in their lives that exemplify positive messages. I come from a family of educators, and I know how crucial it is for kids to stay motivated to both read and stay engaged in the classroom.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I recently did a book signing, and this kid came up to me and said, “I know how hard it is to play in the NHL and I’m working as hard as I possibly can and, you know what, I want to work as hard as you did and achieve my dream, too.” He was wearing his hockey warm-up gear and looked like he just came from practice. That’s what it’s all about. In the end, inspiring kids. That gets me really excited.

What are your 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Failure is not always a bad thing. At an early age, I was not always the best hockey player. Being cut from a team, or not making a team, helped motivate me to become a better player. Adversity makes you a stronger person, both professionally and personally.

2. Be accepting of criticism. Growing up when I felt my dad would be hard on me regarding my play, I would immediately get upset and defensive. Looking back, I realize his criticism was actually constructive and he was only looking to help me become a better player. I should have listened and learned instead of becoming angry over it.

3. There will be plenty of highs and lows in your career, keep all of these in perspective. In times of glory or defeat, keep in mind it is all temporary, use both as motivation to continue to work harder.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement I would love to get behind is creating a well-rounded education for kids that emphasizes the importance of health and wellness in addition to traditional curriculum. The education would involve children learning how to grow their own food and witness firsthand the value in whole, nutritious foods. The health of our country has taken a major hit, especially among children, and I would love to see our youth turn it around.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to enjoy the journey.”

We are so quick to believe our greatest moments in life will be when we achieve our goals and dreams, but the memories you make along the journey will be some of your greatest. It is important enjoy the path that you are on and find greatness in the little moments that you collect along the way.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Clark Durant, Michelle Obama, Roger Federer. These individuals possess a work ethic and leadership role I aspire to achieve. I admire their hard work in their professions and their efforts in creating a better community.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Philanthropist Porntip Bui Simon: Life is Too Short For Pity Parties

by Yitzi Weiner
Community//

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Vernon Davis is helping to promote art education and art appreciation among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds

by Edward Sylvan
Community//

The Future of Healthcare: “We have to address the marketing and availability of unhealthy foods” with Viveka Rydell-Anderson, CEO of PDI

by Christina D. Warner, MBA

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.