Arber Xhekaj’s story is unlike any other in the NHL. Just a few years ago, he was working at Costco as he went undrafted two times.
But Xhekaj kept on working hard and earned himself a contract with the Montreal Canadiens. After showcasing what he can do in a summer camp, he got a chance in the NHL, and the rest is history.
Since then, Xhekaj has earned a reputation for being perhaps the toughest guy in the league, and he never shies away from a battle or a fight, no matter who the opponent may be.
Xhekaj has made a name for himself by throwing big hits, but on Thursday night’s matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, the young defenseman found himself on the receiving end of a hit in a rare sighting, and it didn’t turn out great.
Xhekaj rushed to a board battle with Golden Knights forward Ivan Barbashev but was sent flying by Barbashev’s hit. Xhekaj collided with the board and immediately looked uncomfortable in his left shoulder, and he went straight to the locker room to check it up.
Canadiens fans feared the worst, as Xhekaj’s 2022-23 season was cut short in February after he underwent surgery on his right shoulder. This time, it looked like the pain was in the other shoulder, which may be a good sign.
A bad sign, however, was that Xhekaj didn’t return to the game after the hit from Barbashev. Wifi, as he’s called in Montreal, is second in hits on Montreal and atop the NHL’s penalty minutes charts, was a plus-three, and had a couple of hits during 10:19 of playing time on Thursday.
With Xhekaj in the locker room for the remainder of the game, the Golden Knights turned the game around, erasing deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 to win an entertaining and thrilling contest.
On social media, the talk of the game was about Xhekaj, with some taking shots at him.
“‘Toughest guy in the league,'” one said, followed by faces with tears of joy emojis.
“Beauty of a hit. Hope he’s alright,” another said.
“Wifi password has been hacked! Go for the shoulder,” a third added.