Arber Xhekaj has had quite the journey to get to where he is today as a defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL. Just two years ago, Xhekaj was working at Costco while playing junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
He played for the Kitchener Rangers and the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL during the 2021-2022 season, where he played in 51 games, scored 12 goals, had 22 assists, and racked up 138 PIMS.
But Xhekaj’s hard work and dedication to the game paid off, as he was eventually signed by the Canadiens as a free agent in 2021. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a reliable and physical defenseman, appearing in 32 games for the Canadiens this season and scoring 4 goals and adding 6 assists. He has racked up 65 PIMs already in the NHL, he loves to drop the gloves.
Despite his success on the ice, Xhekaj hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings and still remembers the moment when he realized just how far he had come. “I remember I was eating a steak on the plane and I look over at Guhle, cause we sit besides each other, and I’m like ‘ man, what the F*** are we doing right now? We’re eating steak on a private jet. What are we doing man? How is this normal?”, Xhekaj said in an interview about the experience of being a professional hockey player.
Xhekaj’s journey from a Costco employee to an NHL player serves as an inspiration to all aspiring hockey players, and his quote about the surreal experience of being a professional athlete perfectly encapsulates the feeling of achieving one’s dreams. It’s clear that Xhekaj has a bright future ahead of him and will continue to make an impact on and off the ice for the Canadiens.
Xhekaj also has one of the most creative names in the NHL, being called “wifi” by his teammates and fans.