Toronto Maple Leaf alumni faced off at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont. on Sunday to show how sports can bring a community together even when faced with adversity.
The game followed the Toronto Raptors’ annual open practice at Budweiser Gardens on Oct. 2. It was all part of a weekend of events hosted by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, organized with the aim of standing up against hate in the wake of a fatal attack on a Muslim family in June.
At the end of the game, former Leafs captain Wendel Clark reflected on the importance of sports as way to overcome division.
“It’s looking out for one another,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the ice or in the community, it’s about being a good community person, and being a good team player.”
The Afzaal family was out for an evening walk when they were struck by a driver in a black truck in what police and prosecutors allege was an act of anti-Muslim hate. Four members of the family died.
The youngest member of the family survived. He has since been released from hospital and is being cared for by extended family.
The driver faces four first-degree murder charges, one attempted murder charge and associated terrorism charges.
‘I feel like we can make a difference’
“I’m so happy I came,” said Yasmin Khan, who was close friends with the Afzaal family. Khan watched the Maple Leafs game alongside her nieces and nephews.
“Seeing the support, I feel like we can make a difference and seeing people who have a strong name in the community and them standing up for inclusion, this means a lot and this shows that we can all stand together and lead a world that is not based off of ignorance.”
Khan said the nine-year-old survivor of the attack is “strong,” and surrounded by his loving family.
The MLSE also announced it is collaborating with the City of London and its Muslim Community to develop a $250,000 legacy project that would enhance London’s recreation spaces.
“Our community has been so rocked by the terrorist attack in June and this is a way to sort of build on the community that kind of came together,” Rumina Morris, London’s director of anti-racism and anti-oppression, told CBC News.
“Sport is just a natural way for folks to enjoy, spend time outdoors, connect with one another and sort of build some community capacity. And so it’s a nice link to have a space and place that people can engage in the community without fear.”