(Courtesy Kobe McComber)
On November 16, Kahnawa’kehró:non hockey player Kobe McComber intercepted the puck inside the blue line. His wrist shot ricocheted off the right goal post, but he came up with his own rebound and calmly put the puck in the back of the net for his first goal as a Junior B hockey player.
“I was like, ‘wow, it actually went in this time,’” said McComber. “It was a pretty good feeling.”
That night, he got home around 1:30 in the morning – but it wasn’t because he was out late celebrating.
McComber and his new team, the Brockville Tikis of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, had been playing an away game west of Ottawa, so he spent those late-night hours with his eyes fixed on Highway 417.
The drive home to Kahnawake from Carleton Place, Ontario takes about two-and-a-half hours.
His teammates, meanwhile, relaxed on a team bus headed in a different direction, getting back to Brockville in a little over an hour.
The tedious four-hour round trip to Brockville for practices and home games is becoming more stressful with the onset of wintry weather, so McComber decided to billet with the family of a teammate in the Ontario city.
However, the $600 a month for a place to stay and a daily meal was more than he could afford on his own. He had already spent $4,000 on league and team fees and a mandatory package of CCM-branded gear.
McComber turned to GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding website, to ask the community for help.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much,” said the left-winger. McComber had expected $10 here or there, for which he would have been grateful, so he was surprised to see his GoFundMe rocket past $2,000 within a day and a half of sharing it on Facebook.
“People who don’t even know me have been supporting me,” he said.
Leah Diome is among the Kahnawa’kehró:non who contributed, pitching in $50. She knows McComber’s parents and has often seen the 20-year-old come by her store, The Purple Dragonfly Trading Post, to visit his girlfriend, who has worked there part-time.
“Kobe is a hard-working, good human and a great role model for the youth in Kahnawake,” said Diome.
McComber plans to pursue hockey as far as it will take him. For now, he’s focused on the season at hand and feeling hopeful his team will improve on a 5-11-1 record.
After a period of uncertainty, the Tikis have a new coach at the helm, Dustin Traylen. “He really brings the game to us and makes us think of everything you really need to think of,” said McComber. “He brings a different play style, and it kind of reflects in our game.”
McComber described his team as like a second family.
“It’s a really good experience all in all,” he said. “Win or lose, we’re just going to play hockey.”
His schedule keeps him more than busy, but his partner is well-equipped to understand – Kyla Morris also plays hockey at a high level, in her case with the Dawson College Blues Women’s Division 1 team.
“I am very happy for Kobe to be playing high-level hockey,” said Morris. “He always wanted to, and he pushed himself to fulfill his dream. He’s doing well and is a difference-maker on the ice.”
Morris attends McComber’s home games on Wednesday nights, driving back to make it to her Thursday morning practices, which start at 7 a.m.
McComber is still accepting donations on his GoFundMe page, which at the time of writing has raised close to $2,700 – still short of his $6,500 goal.
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.