Nolan Lalonde and Chris Droulis are proof that hockey can bring people together, no matter how different they are
Nolan Lalonde and Chris Droulis are like a lot of friends these days.
They chat daily on FaceTime. They go for walks and jogs and work out
together. They simply hang out.
But the relationship that Lalonde and Droulis have is quite unique. Lalonde
is 16 years old, an up-and-coming goaltender who spent last season with the
Kingston Jr. Gaels (Minor U18 AAA), was taken 49th by the Erie Otters in
the 2020 OHL Priority Selection and is online this week for Canada’s
national under-17 development camp.
Droulis recently turned 35, is a lifelong hockey fanatic and has Down
syndrome, a genetic disorder that is often associated with growth delays,
mild to moderate intellectual disability and characteristic facial
If you were to see the two together, it would be like seeing any friends;
they enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh and support each
another through life’s ups and downs.
“This guy might be the biggest hockey fan I’ve ever met. He can tell you
any Kingston Frontenacs team roster from the beginning of the
organization’s time to now,” says Lalonde. “I met him at the rink a couple
of times, we started talking and it got to the point where we would call
each other every day. We talk on FaceTime, we started walking every day and
“It’s been incredible. He’s given me a whole different perspective on just
being happy, enjoying yourself, enjoying life. Because it’s not worth being
down in the dumps; it’s important to just be happy.”
Droulis grew up in the hockey rink – his older brother Nick, 10 years his
senior, played minor hockey growing up and the Droulis family has held
season tickets to the Ontario Hockey League’s Frontenacs for close to 20
years. Droulis’ brother-in-law Jeff Foster has coached minor hockey for
years and was an assistant with the Jr. Gaels, which is how Nolan and Chris
Karen Foster, Chris’ sister, says her brother developed a strong bond with
Lalonde right from the get-go.
“Everybody wants people around them that they love to have, who are very
real, very natural, very loyal connections,” says Foster. “It’s really
special for us because Chris and Nolan have kind of hit it off right from
the beginning. Nolan is a very mature, very supportive and understanding
person. He takes Chris for who he is and just loves everything about him.
It’s very genuine. Chris looks forward every day to their phone calls,
their workouts. That means a lot to him.”
Lalonde also has a long history in the game. At an early age, he watched
hockey on TV with his dad Rob Lalonde, who played Junior A for the Kanata
Valley Lasers, Massena Turbines and Brockville Braves in the old Central
Junior Hockey League in the late 1980s before one season at Laurentian
Nolan was attracted to the goaltender position (his dad played every
position but goal) early on, mainly because he didn’t think he would have
to skate. That was a myth put to rest quickly by his parents, who told
young Nolan that goalies are often among the best skaters on a team. He
hasn’t really left the net since.
“I like the whole position,” says Lalonde. “It’s pretty cool being able to
quarterback the team. You see everything that happens on the ice. You have
a completely different perspective from the other players who are just
looking as they skate … we can see the whole ice the whole game. It’s a lot
of fun being able to stop the puck too. I just enjoy it.”
Whenever Chris sees Nolan before a game, he gives him one tip (and, really,
what else is there to say to a goaltender?): “He tells me to stop the
puck,” says Lalonde with a laugh.
Lalonde has a bit of history with children who have Down syndrome. His
mother is a Kindergarten teacher and Nolan has helped out in the classroom
in the past, at times with children who have Down syndrome. He knows the
condition can impact typical development and that some people are
intimidated by those who appear different. You can hear the pride in
Lalonde’s voice when he describes Chris as high-functioning, someone who
excels in Special Olympics basketball and is simply seen as one of the
“It’s an honour to be friends with him. In Kingston, everyone knows him.
It’s amazing,” says Lalonde. “He teaches you that you can be friends with
someone, even if they’re different. Embrace people’s differences. He’s a
friend of mine and I’d say it’s no different than a lot of my friends.
“It’s been incredible to see how he likes everyone. He’s friends with
everyone. He’s so nice to everybody and he’s happy. If I’m having a bad
day, he calls me and he’s happy, it makes my day better, honestly, and it’s
infectious to be around someone who is always positive, who is always there