By: Stephanie Coratti
Nico Daws’ way to the crease wasn’t the smoothest of paths.
In fact, the now rookie Guelph Storm goaltender began with a strong dislike for skating lessons when he was just two years old.
“I hated it because it was only skating, and it wasn’t hockey,” Daws explained. “I begged my parents to let me play hockey, so when I was three, I started playing.”
Four years later, the Burlington, Ontario native decided to become a permanent netminder at the age of seven — but it wasn’t because of an incredible performance, instead, just the opposite.
“I was playing houseleague and we were rotating through goalies… we had a tournament in the [United States], and I played goalie the whole tournament,” Daws recalled, already laughing at the memory. “And… I got absolutely lit up… but I loved it — I never wanted to play anything else.”
Jumping in net full-time, of course, came paired with something almost every goalie remembers: getting your first set of pads.
“They were TPS pads — it was back when I was playing houseleague still but as a full-time goalie this time,” Daws offered. “They were stand-up pads… they had the little hole right over the skate… they were just the worst pads ever, but I remember I was obsessed with them.”
From there, Daws evolved from TPS pads, and houseleague play, eventually becoming a seventh round draft pick of the Storm in 2016, only to serve as the team’s back-up netminder a year later this season.
“Definitely making the jump from minor hockey to the OHL,” Daws said of the biggest challenge of his hockey career to date. “It’s been really hard, but you just have to keep working on everything and keep a positive mindset.”
With the right attitude, it took Daws just his second start — and third appearance — in major junior to earn his first career OHL win in a 4-2 final in Owen Sound on November 25, 2017.
“I didn’t tell my parents I was playing, but they came, and one of my best friends from all of minor hockey came, and he didn’t know I was playing either,” Daws said of the game that saw him turn away 43 of 45 attempts for the game’s first star. “It was really nice to have them there for that.”
From one of his proudest accomplishments right back to the very start, Daws is quick to recognize the two people who deserve credit for getting him to this point.
“My parents,” Daws said. “I remember my mom saying once, ‘I’ll never be a hockey mom,’ and there she was, two years later, waking up at six [in the morning], driving me to the rink — they always drove me around and came to every game.”
While for Daws’ dad — who the now six-foot-five, 225-pound goaltender credits for getting him into the game to start — it was always about making sure his son was happy exactly where he was.
“My dad never put any pressure on me — he always said if I wanted to play hockey, I could go for it because it will give me skills and the right mindset and all that,” Daws continued. “But he always gave me the option every year, if I wanted to switch back [from being a goalie] but I never did.”