BROSSARD – Seven-year-old Nathan Chouinard suited up for a skate to remember on Friday morning.
The Sherbrooke native, who suffers from a rare congenital disorder known as ectrodactyly which causes malformations in both the hands and feet, donned his goalie equipment for a once-in-a-lifetime on-ice session with both Carey Price and Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite at the Bell Sports Complex. Defenseman P.K. Subban even joined in on the fun, taking shots on the Novice B netminder during the latter stages of his workout while Nathan’s parents and siblings looked on from the stands with pride and amazement.
“It all goes back to when Radio-Canada Estrie came by to film a practice with Nathan and his team over the holidays. The director of Hockey Sherbrooke, Jean-Guy Rancourt, saw the story and right away came up with the idea of organizing a special event for Nathan. Jean-Guy thought he displayed such great perseverance and that he was also a great example of courage and determination. He said he’d try to organize something with an NHL player,” said Nathan’s mother, Janie Simard.
Enter Waite, a fellow Sherbrooke native, who saw Nathan’s story and wasted little time putting a plan into action with the help of the reigning Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner.
“I saw it and I had Carey come by my office. He thought we were going to have a normal video session, but I wanted to show him the story on Nathan. It made quite the impression on the both of us,” shared Waite, who worked on basic goaltending techniques with Nathan, and also had the youngster help Price with his individual workout, too. “I asked him if he was interested in doing something with Nathan at practice, and he agreed to do it right away. Carey said that he’d be happy to have him at practice when he got back on the ice.”
Nathan’s mother was ecstatic to see her son live out his hockey dream on Friday.
“Nathan was born with a few malformations. He doesn’t have all of his fingers or his toes. But, he’s very skilled and determined that nothing would stand in the way of him playing hockey. He’s been playing since the age of four and skating since the age of three. This was a very emotional experience for him and for us, too. This is a magical and unique experience,” said Simard, who also recalled the moment Nathan learned he’d be practicing with Price and Waite last week.
“When Nathan found out, he thought he’d be practicing with all of the guys. That made him very nervous. He said: ‘Mom, I won’t be able to stop all of the pucks. I’m going to give up a lot of goals,’” added Simard. “When I told him that he’d be alone with Carey, he was relieved.”
So, what did Nathan think about skating with his hockey idols?
“I was a little shy, to be honest. But, I was also very happy. I learned some important lessons,” he said. “It was exciting. I feel very lucky. I want to play like Carey one day.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSO
A skate to remember Words From The Room - March 18
Follow the leader The Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation Radio-Telethon raises over $100,000.