Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader hopes to inspire kids with his book

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Justin Abdelkader reads to young students as part of his Abby’s All-Stars program.

Detroit – Justin Abdelkader, Red Wings power forward, Michigan State alum, family man, Muskegon native.

Now you can add the title of … author?

Sure enough, Abdelkader has delved into the publishing world, as his children’s book, “Shoot for the Goal: The Justin Abdelkader Story,” is now out and receiving praise for its message of perseverance.

“It’s about following your goals and dreams,” said Abdelkader, who wrote the book, with an assist from his wife Julie, and Mary Cindrich handling the illustrations. “It follows me growing up and pretty much everything that happened along the way, with all the obstacles I faced.”

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Abdelkader has always been active in children’s programs, and especially when it comes to reading. His Abby’s All-Stars children’s reading program is especially popular, as Abdelkader chooses books for children to read and visits their schools and reads to them.

It was during research on which books to present that Abdelkader came across former Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch’s “The Little Linebacker,” an illustrated semi-autobiography aimed at kids.

Suddenly, Abdelkader had an idea.

“I saw Stephen Tulloch’s book, it was about his childhood and growing up and overcoming different obstacles for an NFL player,” Abdelkader said. “I was like, ‘I think I have a good story I could tell.’

“I could tie in my reading program and inspire kids and promote literacy.”

All proceeds from Abdelkader’s book – which is available in the Red Wings’ team store at Little Caesars Arena and Troy’s Hockeytown Authentics, as well as online – go toward the Abby’s All-Stars reading program.

Abelkader’s book tells young readers about his journey from his hometown of Muskegon to the NHL.

The entire book publishing process took nearly a year, with matching the prose to illustration the most tedious aspect.

“Between my wife and I figuring out which pictures go with what – and I had my mom send a lot of pictures to the illustrator so she could get an idea of what my parents and sister look like and what I liked looked like growing up – it was a lot of work,” Abdelkader said. “But it didn’t feel like work. It was fun.

“It turned out great. We were more than pleased. Flipping through the pages, and seeing it actually printed, it was real cool. I never thought I’d become an author.”

What Abdelkader wanted to do most of all was inspire and propel the dreams and aspirations of children.

“In middle school we went to a job fair in Muskegon,” Abdelkader said. “This one guy had all these marbles in a bowl, and just one of them was red. It really stood out.

“And he said the red one represented the chances of becoming a professional athlete. Well, all of us kids were playing everything at the time, and we all thought we were going to go pro. I just remember how discouraging it was.

“It’s not even about playing in the NHL. There’s a lot of goals along the way, and you never want to shoot down any kid’s dreams or goals.”

Abdelkader said he was cut twice from youth teams, and eventually he drew inspiration from that.

“I wanted to tell my story, try to inspire kids, because there are so many negative situations that come up for kids” Abdelkader said.

Now Abdelkader is thinking about writing a second book.

“You never know,” Abdelkader said. “Could be. I’m not sure what it would be about. It probably wouldn’t be about hockey. It would be about something different.

“But, yes, possibly.”

Twitter @tkulfan