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O’Nabigon eyes pro hockey career

Thursday July 10, 2008

Former Kitchener Rangers says phone call is all it will take to get started

Life is about to change for Nathan O’Nabigon. He is about to finish a four-year business degree this summer and is about to embark on a possible pro hockey career.

After wrapping up his university hockey career with a loss to the Canadian champion University of Alberta Golden Bears, O’Nabigon feels ready to move on.

“(The loss) was very disappointing. I felt I could have turned the game around on that breakaway but it didn’t happen,” said O’Nabigon, a member of Ginoogaming First Nation. “I thought it was the right move at the time but what are you going to do?

“Alberta was a good team, they were solid, they came out of a tough conference but we couldn’t quite figure out their goaltender even though we fired forty shots at him,” said O’Nabigon.

“Championships seem to follow me around. I guess it’s good to have that.”

That much is obvious as Nathan sports a Memorial Cup ring from his days in Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and a University Cup win last year with the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

Now he’s looking at a professional career in hockey.

That’s where things get a little murky.

He knows teams have contacted his university coach about his potential as a player.

In fact, New York Islanders head coach Ted Nolan was very impressed with what he saw last fall when his New York Islanders played Nathan’s university team as part of a pre-season NHL exhibition.

“I would like to make the jump to the American League,” said O’Nabigon. “They (Islanders) talked to my university coach after that game.”

But they didn’t sign him either.

So he waits.

Occasionally he calls up his player agent, though O’Nabigon said he hasn’t had much contact with him since embarking on his university career.

But he remains hopeful. And to a hockey player it makes perfect sense.

That magic phone call is all it takes.

Technically, he’s eligible to return to UNB for his fifth and final year of university hockey, but after talking with his junior buddies who have gone on to pro careers he feels now is the time to make his move.

Those former mates include Derek Roy, Steve Emminger, and Philadelphia Flyers alternate captain Mike Richards.

“I just came back from Kitchener,” said O’Nabigon. “I talked with my former teammates and we just hung out really. But they’ve told me before what it’s like being a pro player.

“If I do go pro it will be a good change, a welcome change. They seem to have fun up there. But really, being together with the boys one more time was nice, I hadn’t seen Richards in a long time.”

For now he will finish his last two courses while spending the summer in Calgary and get his degree in business administration and continue working out.

“My Mom wants me to finish my degree. Back home people are wondering where I’m going to end up and are wishing me the best,” said O’Nabigon. “I know a lot of guys out here who play pro and so I’m going to get some ice so I can be ready.”

Although uncertain of his hockey future, O’Nabigon remains certain of one thing.

He put everything he had into a game of skates, sticks and pucks and for that he remains grateful.

“If I put out my best effort and things don’t work out I’ll have no regrets,” said O’Nabigon. “I’ve laid it all out on the line. I think I would be satisfied. I’ve enjoyed hockey, the game has been a huge part of my life.

“A lot of people haven’t had the opportunity that I did in hockey and never will.”

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