A former NHL player, John Chabot, is in Thunder Bay, Ont., this week encouraging students at the Matawa Learning Centre to “believe in yourself, that’s the biggest thing you can do, because not everyone is going to believe in you.”
The philosophy of his hockey and coaching clinics is simple says the 54-year-old Anishinabeg Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi First Nation, near Ottawa.
“Making a kid laugh, and having a good day will lead to better things,” said Chabot who played centre for Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit, and is now an Athlete Ambassador with Right to Play.
“We chose hockey, or hockey chose us I think is the better word, but we worked at it… if you want to do something with your life, there’s no reason why you can’t – John Chabot, Right to Play
As a person “who’s been very lucky in life” he believes it’s only natural to want to give back, and he does that by working with First Nations youth, and other young people, including visible minorities, who are often at a disadvantage in life.
He believes sharing his own story of how he became a successful Indigenous athlete can inspire First Nations young people.
To that end, Chabot has formed an Indigenous Alumni Team — including former NHL players like Reggie Leach, Ryan Trottier, Brandon Nolan, Denny Lambert, Dan Frawley, and Arron Asham — which travels to First Nations communities to serve as an example of what dreams and perseverance can achieve.
“We chose hockey, or hockey chose us I think is the better word, but we worked at it and I think it’s important that we as a community — First Nations athletes, actors and maybe people in the limelight a little bit — let kids know that you’re viable, you’re important and if you want to do something with your life, there’s no reason why you can’t,” he said.
‘Positive influence on a kid’s life’
Chabot said he’ll consider the week a success if he sees the students enjoying themselves, and explains that he visited one community where he was told by teachers not to expect much from one young person, whom they had never seen smile.
“And the kid at the end of the time was laughing, lying on the ice, playing and that’s all it’s about. You won’t be making an NHL player from something like this, but you could have a very positive influence on a kid’s life.”
This is the first time Matawa Learning Centre, which is a private First Nations high school serving students from five Matawa First Nations communities, has partnered with Right to Play.