2020 wu17hc nolan lalonde

You’ve got a friend in me

Nolan Lalonde and Chris Droulis are proof that hockey can bring people together, no matter how different they are

Chris Jurewicz
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July 23, 2020
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Nolan Lalonde and Chris Droulis are like a lot of friends these days.

They chat daily on FaceTime. They go for walks and jogs and work out together. They simply hang out.

But the relationship that Lalonde and Droulis have is quite unique. Lalonde is 16 years old, an up-and-coming goaltender who spent last season with the Kingston Jr. Gaels (Minor U18 AAA), was taken 49th by the Erie Otters in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection and is online this week for Canada’s national under-17 development camp.

Droulis recently turned 35, is a lifelong hockey fanatic and has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that is often associated with growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability and characteristic facial features.

If you were to see the two together, it would be like seeing any friends; they enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh and support each another through life’s ups and downs.

“This guy might be the biggest hockey fan I’ve ever met. He can tell you any Kingston Frontenacs team roster from the beginning of the organization’s time to now,” says Lalonde. “I met him at the rink a couple of times, we started talking and it got to the point where we would call each other every day. We talk on FaceTime, we started walking every day and exercising.

“It’s been incredible. He’s given me a whole different perspective on just being happy, enjoying yourself, enjoying life. Because it’s not worth being down in the dumps; it’s important to just be happy.”

Droulis grew up in the hockey rink – his older brother Nick, 10 years his senior, played minor hockey growing up and the Droulis family has held season tickets to the Ontario Hockey League’s Frontenacs for close to 20 years. Droulis’ brother-in-law Jeff Foster has coached minor hockey for years and was an assistant with the Jr. Gaels, which is how Nolan and Chris met.

Karen Foster, Chris’ sister, says her brother developed a strong bond with Lalonde right from the get-go.

“Everybody wants people around them that they love to have, who are very real, very natural, very loyal connections,” says Foster. “It’s really special for us because Chris and Nolan have kind of hit it off right from the beginning. Nolan is a very mature, very supportive and understanding person. He takes Chris for who he is and just loves everything about him. It’s very genuine. Chris looks forward every day to their phone calls, their workouts. That means a lot to him.”

Lalonde also has a long history in the game. At an early age, he watched hockey on TV with his dad Rob Lalonde, who played Junior A for the Kanata Valley Lasers, Massena Turbines and Brockville Braves in the old Central Junior Hockey League in the late 1980s before one season at Laurentian University.

Nolan was attracted to the goaltender position (his dad played every position but goal) early on, mainly because he didn’t think he would have to skate. That was a myth put to rest quickly by his parents, who told young Nolan that goalies are often among the best skaters on a team. He hasn’t really left the net since.

“I like the whole position,” says Lalonde. “It’s pretty cool being able to quarterback the team. You see everything that happens on the ice. You have a completely different perspective from the other players who are just looking as they skate … we can see the whole ice the whole game. It’s a lot of fun being able to stop the puck too. I just enjoy it.”

Whenever Chris sees Nolan before a game, he gives him one tip (and, really, what else is there to say to a goaltender?): “He tells me to stop the puck,” says Lalonde with a laugh.

Lalonde has a bit of history with children who have Down syndrome. His mother is a Kindergarten teacher and Nolan has helped out in the classroom in the past, at times with children who have Down syndrome. He knows the condition can impact typical development and that some people are intimidated by those who appear different. You can hear the pride in Lalonde’s voice when he describes Chris as high-functioning, someone who excels in Special Olympics basketball and is simply seen as one of the guys.

“It’s an honour to be friends with him. In Kingston, everyone knows him. It’s amazing,” says Lalonde. “He teaches you that you can be friends with someone, even if they’re different. Embrace people’s differences. He’s a friend of mine and I’d say it’s no different than a lot of my friends.

“It’s been incredible to see how he likes everyone. He’s friends with everyone. He’s so nice to everybody and he’s happy. If I’m having a bad day, he calls me and he’s happy, it makes my day better, honestly, and it’s infectious to be around someone who is always positive, who is always there for you.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
dsaillant@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

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