There’s no one in the NHL quite like Arber Xhekaj. He’s a huge fan favorite in Montreal, and it’s easy to understand why. Xhekaj, who’s earned the nickname ’Wifi’ by some fans for how hard some people find it to announce his last name, has taken the long way to the top.
Unlike many other young players in the NHL, it wasn’t obvious he would make it, and he even went un-drafted in the NHL Entry Draft.
Just some years ago, he was working at Costco, far away from being a regular in the best hockey league in the world. Xhekaj played in the OHL, but when the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to find something to do with his time.
And he also needed money to afford the camps, hoping for someone to recognize his talents.
“It was when COVID hit and they kind of shut down everything, I wasn’t just going to sit at home,” said Xhekaj in an interview with TVA’s Dave Morissette. “I had so much free time… I had to do something. I wanted money.
“My mom got me a job at Costco and the rest is history from there.”
Arber Xhekaj is a regular in the NHL nowadays, just years after working at Costco. His story is inspirational, and he sends a message to everyone to never give up. He played 51 games with the Canadiens in his rookie year and became a huge fan favorite by delivering massive hits and dropping the mitts with fighting veterans.
But Xhekaj hasn’t forgotten where he came from, and in the interview with TVA, he revealed he still visits his former workplace occasionally.
“I was there every two weeks buying groceries this summer,” said Xhekaj. “I still go there and say hi to all my coworkers and the managers.”
Arber Xhekaj has one point in four games so far, an assist, but he had fans off their seats in a heavyweight tilt with Ryan Reaves on the opening night of the season.