“A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”
-- Coach Gordon Bombay, The Mighty Ducks
For Nick Todd, being a part of a team, belonging, and being respected has given the 15-year-old his voice, and place in the arena and at school.
The Grade 9 student at Paris District High School experienced organized hockey for the first time after participating in the Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) program, led by teacher Peter Crosby this past semester. Nick is autistic and the transition from elementary school to secondary school was flawless thanks to the excitement and interest invested in the hockey program.
The course, which gets students on the ice three mornings a week, focuses on personal development and on-ice skills, with a health and theory component.
“Nick loves it out on the ice,” said Crosby, “He’s always excited to be involved, whether he’s cheering from the bench or getting ready for a game.”
A lover of all sports, Nick has been no stranger to keeping score or analyzing statistics. He’s a passionate Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but loves to watch baseball and indulge in sports movies in his free time. His overwhelming knowledge and interest is what led him to become equipment manager for the PDHS Panthers varsity hockey team.
“Mr. Crosby has been outstanding and all about the kids,” said Nick’s father, John.
Nick is often unofficially recruited to give a pre-game and post-game speech to the team, drawing from all clichés and his favourite movie, The Mighty Ducks.
“I love hockey and I love spending time with the team and helping out,” said Nick.
While the semester has come to an end, Nick has made lasting connections with the students in the HCSA program that are sure to endure throughout his high school career.
“He has such a positive energy,” said John. “His self-help skills have gone from challenging to taking charge on his own.”
The friendships made among Nick and his teammates is mutual and the respect and engagement has been special to watch. All semester, Nick kept track of his goals and once he reached 50, his teammates created a special surprise.
“The puck used for his 50th goal had the date written on it with his name and the team presented him with the puck,” said Crosby. “I’ve never heard such an amazing Academy Award-like speech.”
“Scoring 50 was a dream come true,” said Nick. “And I could not have done it without you.”