By: Steph Coratti
For Owen Lalonde, it was a typical introduction to hockey.
“My dad would always make a backyard rink, so whenever I got home from school, I would go out in the backyard,” Lalonde, now a sophomore on the Guelph Storm blue line, explained. “My dad basically taught me how to skate there – that’s where it all started.”
Before going on to become the second overall pick of the Sudbury Wolves in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, though, Lalonde had a couple of choices to make.
First, becoming a defenseman.
“I played forward all growing up, and then one day after practice, my coach came up to me and asked me if I wanted to try playing defense,” Lalonde said of his Peewee Triple-A days. “I went back there, tried it out, and I’ve been playing ‘D’ ever since.”
From there, it was a decision between two sports: hockey, or baseball.
A pitcher and short stop on the field, and a sturdy defenseman on the ice, the Windsor, Ontario native had to make a decision at the end of his Bantam season when he was told of the possibility of being a high draft prospect, Elaine Lalonde – Owen’s mom – shared.
“If I chose baseball, I would have had to wait until I could go to university if I got a scholarship,” Lalonde explained of his decision, adding hockey was always his main sport. “Hockey, I could get started on right away, and I was ready.”
“Discussions about going the NCAA route to possibly play both sports had come up, but Owen felt that he was ready to start the next stage of hockey,” Elaine continued. “Hockey was always his real passion so no regrets with that decision… when he returns home to Windsor in the summers, he tries to fit baseball in, but it’s difficult with training and hockey commitments.”
There’s certainly no regrets, but that doesn’t go without challenges. Following Lalonde’s rookie season with the Wolves, the six-foot-one, 176-pound defenseman felt he needed a change, eventually sending him to the Royal City in August 2017.
“It was a long process during the summer, but I was really excited to come here,” Lalonde said of the trade to Guelph. “It was a surprise – I never even thought about Guelph, but as soon as I got the call that it was here, I was really excited.”
The trade also brought Lalonde a little bit closer to home in Windsor, potentially helping with his biggest challenge to date.
“It’s getting used to the league, the schedule, and being against bigger and better players, while being away from home,” Lalonde said. “I’m a little closer to home than last year, but it’s still tough being away from your family and friends all the time. There’s a great group of guys here that I get to hang out with and go to school with, but it’s still tough sometimes.”
While for Lalonde’s parents, watching their son develop into a major junior hockey player has been nothing but memorable.
“We’ve loved watching him play since his minor days, and now it’s that much better as we see his compete level with and against the best players in Ontario,” Elaine – who describes Owen as both a typical teenager, who is simultaneously easy-going and active, and an old-soul type – said. “The Storm organization has a tradition of excellence and we are very proud when we go to the rink and see him be part of such a great group of people.”
An opportunity that Lalonde credits right back to his parents.
“My parents,” Lalonde laughed, offering that he was sure it was everyone’s response to who they want to thank the most. “But without their support, and my [older brother Lucas] too… their support all the way, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Through it all, Lalonde’s proudest moment comes off the ice.
“I think it’s knowing that people think of me as a respectful kid – it’s my character, trying to always be a good guy, a good person, and a good teammate.”
“People go out of their way to compliment us about what a kind, respectful, mature, appreciative person Owen is,” Elaine added. “We are most proud of the fact that he is a great young man.”