Courtesy Skawennahente Tamara McComber
While most children ask their parents to read adventure or fairy tale stories before going to bed, Nikarahkwa Diabo asked his mother to read him hockey magazines.
“He wanted me to name every single team for him, in the eastern and western conferences,” said Skawennahente Tamara McComber, on her son, who began skating at two years old.
“I would read to him all the time. And now that he’s older, he knows every player – he knows their position, and knows what kind of stick they have and what kind of curve they have on their shot… he knows everything.”
As an ice hockey player since the age of five, Diabo has progressed at left wing and right wing, collecting hardware in both sport teams and camps.
Last week, Diabo helped win the World Junior Championship in the SportLife day camp he attends, scoring three goals in the 5-1 final game while McComber and Gale Laborgne, his tóta, cheered in the stands.
“It’s so exciting to watch him,” said Laborgne. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s so smart for hockey.”
The SportLife camp simulates a professional athletic season with a variety of sports in a condensed week-long championship competition, which includes players with any level of experience. Every Monday, the young participants are triaged into one of the three different programs, a non-competitive, a semi-competitive, and a more competitive program, to better accommodate players’ skills.
“We put a lot of attention to detail into the program to make it very unique and different than any other camp,” said Evan Horner, owner and director of the camp, which offers programs throughout the year.
“We have like a red carpet draft, video highlight, player interviews, trade, their SportCentre shows… so that kids can really feel like a pro athlete for the week.”
At the start of the competition, Diabo was enlisted in the Germany team before being traded into team Sweden. Since joining the camp in 2019, he has helped win in some of the finals every year.
Recently, the camp has brought in NHL players to meet with the young players, such as Yanni Gourde, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Anderson of the Montreal Canadiens, who met the players and took pictures, as well as autographing their hockey sticks.
“These NHL players also joined the campers on ice so that the kids can live out their dreams of playing with/against a pro,” Horner shared in a statement.
Currently, 12-year-old Diabo is doing tryouts for the AA hockey league with older competitors, where he’s scored three goals and three assists in the first game. The Boston Bruin fan said his ultimate goal was “to be in the NHL.”
Throughout his life, his uncle Hiio, tóta, and his mother, along with his extended family, have supported his development and growth in the sport.
“I’m excited for hockey season,” said McComber. “I’m excited to cheer him on and to see him so happy… I am my son’s number one fan.”