By: Stephanie Coratti
Originally, Nico Daws was only in it for the cookies.
“I started taking skating lessons when I was about two and I only did it ‘cause I liked getting a cookie at the end of the lesson,” the now Guelph Storm goaltender laughed, adding that he started playing hockey a year later at the age of three. “I started out as a player, but then when I was playing houseleague around 5-years-old, I became a goalie.”
Daws remembers falling in love with the position instantly, and in arguably the most realistic fashion.
“[We] had a tournament somewhere in the states… and we got torn apart, it was 10-0 or 13-0, something like that, just torn apart though,” Daws recalled with a smile. “But I absolutely loved being in net. It’s kind of a weird way to start, but here I am.”
Despite the rocky beginning, it always seemed like the natural path for the now second-year netminder.
“It was both of my parents, but definitely my dad – he’s a huge Leafs fan,” Daws said of his introduction to the game, giving credit to Steve Daws. “He claims that one of my first words was hockey, but I don’t know if I believe him… ever since I was young though, I loved it and I still do obviously.”
That very love for the game pushed Daws to become a seventh-round selection (122nd overall) of the Storm in 2016 – an accomplishment that strikes a heightened sense of pride for the Storm sophomore.
“Being drafted, that was probably one of my biggest moments,” Daws offered on what he’s most proud of. “Ever since I started being a goalie, I always said I wanted to be in the OHL… and then it actually happened.”
Not only did it happen, but Daws later earned the back-up role the following season in 2017-18 – a feat, however, that didn’t come without certain trials.
“From midget to the OHL, it’s definitely a very big jump,” the Burlington, Ontario native explained of his career’s biggest challenge so far, offering that the dedication at the midget level has a wide range. “In midget, a lot of guys are just trying to run out their hockey career, and then there’s the 25% like me, who still had something to play for… then you come here, and everyone is so dedicated, skilled, and driven. That’s hard to get used to.”
Since the transition, Daws has reached 30 games played and counting, but not without an important piece of advice to continue going the distance.
“Don’t expect anything,” the goaltender said of the best piece of advice he’s received, coming from a friend’s dad who had previously played professional hockey. “You get drafted to the OHL, but don’t expect to play. I think I went through that in my first year, but it was good for me… I never expected to get games or expected to play, but I always kept working hard and pushing through and I think it’s starting to pay off a little bit.”
That pay off has most recently come in the form of Daws’ first career OHL shutout with 29 saves versus the Kingston Frontenacs on February 10, 2019.
“That was fun… it was definitely a cool feeling,” Daws explained of the milestone, adding that he came very close to getting it the weekend before against the same team, but had the zero broken with 3:30 left on the clock. “I didn’t really expect to get a shutout, I mean, I was wondering when it was going to come but, you try not to think about that too much.”
With success slowly but surely coming for a kid who once loved the blue paint so much not even a 10-0 loss – or 13-0, he can’t quite remember – could scare him away, there have always been the same people supporting him from the start.
“My parents and my sisters,” Daws said of sisters Elsa and Sofie, and parents Stefani and Steve. “My sisters came to every minor hockey game, missing out on so much because my parents were always driving me around, and then my parents… buying me all the equipment – you know, being a goalie’s expensive – and then driving me around the country.”
“They all sacrificed so much for me and I can’t thank them enough.”