Although Nathan Todd is finding his routine, his hockey career has been fraught with adversity that made him into the hockey player he is today.
Growing up in Kemptville, Ontario, Todd became ingrained in hockey from a young age.
“I remember my dad telling me when I was young, the first time he put skates on me I hated it. I guess I was three. I was yelling, I didn’t want to do it, he was a little nervous. I took that year off, and then the next year, he put the skates on me again, I went out for a skate, and I loved it,” he said.
Throughout his career, Todd has played for many teams leading up to his current time with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL.
As a child, Todd began his hockey career with a minor league hockey association in Kemptville.
“I was pretty young. I don’t really have a great memory of it, but that was just a learning curve. I was just getting into the game and learning the game,” he said.
Starting in the 2008-09 season, Todd began playing for the Rideau Saint Laurence Kings bantam and midget AA.
Through his time with the RSL Kings, Todd played in 110 games, recording 64 goals and 99 assists for a total of 163 points.
“The Rideau Saint Laurence Kings is when it came a little bit more competitive. We’d have tryouts, and tournaments, and I ended up playing six or seven years with the RSL Kings, which was quite a long time,” he said.
Following his time with the RSL Kings, Todd played in 31 games for the Upper Canada Cyclones. He recorded 19 goals and 25 assists for 44 points.
As time wound down for him with the Cyclones, Todd joined the Brockville Braves in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).
While with the Braves, Todd played in 139 games, recording 50 goals and 71 assists for a total of 121 points.
“My first year was a big learning curve for me. I played there pretty young, it was my first year of junior, I was 16, so I was learning the game, I was playing against guys that were 21. I hadn’t really hit my growth spurt yet and these guys were full grown men,” Todd said.
“But my second year was a really fun year. I had a lot of success on the ice and had fun off it. It was just a good year all around, so I got to learn from coaches, I learned the game, I learned the league, and it ended up being a lot of fun for me,” he added.
When he was in Brockville, Todd lucked out with an amazing billet family, and due to him living with them, they are a huge part of what he misses the most about playing for the Braves.
“I always had a lot of fun at my billet house. I lived with my best friend who was a family friend for a long time, and I definitely miss the house,” Todd said.
“I miss the Friday night games, every Friday night the rink was called the Mad House, so I always got up and was excited for those games, but I live close to Brockville, so it was nice. Every game I’d be able to see family and friends,” he added.
Following his time with the Braves, Todd was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in the fifth round, 90th overall by the Ottawa 67’s.
“So, when I got drafted by Ottawa I was really pumped. It was close to home for one, but two, I knew all about the team, I knew the rink, I knew everything, they had the Civic Centre under construction but we moved into it my first year and playing in that rink, walking out the tunnel for my first game,” Todd said.
“I still remember where we’d sit for the games and stuff, and I couldn’t believe it. Not too long ago I was up there looking down at these guys thinking I want to be here, so, it was pretty cool,” he added.
With the 67’s, Todd played in 127 games, recording 42 goals and 70 assists for a total of 112 points.
“I think playing junior hockey is a privilege, it’s a lot of fun, you get to have fun with your teammates every day, you’re still learning about life, what to expect. And it’s not just hockey there, they’re teaching you for the next 10,20,30 years of your life,” Todd said.
You’re learning stuff everyday, and you’re slowly getting better as a hockey player and as a person, and it was the time of the year when you’re 20 years old, you’re learning a lot of stuff, and that rink was pretty sweet to play in. I’ll always enjoy that rink, it’s my favourite rink in the OHL,” he added.
Following his time with the 67’s, Todd played for the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League (AHL), the Quad City Mallards of the ECHL, and the Carleton University Ravens men’s hockey team in U Sports. While on those teams, he played a combined amount of 32 games.
“After my over age season with the 67’s, I got a PTO to go play for the Binghamton Senators for the rest of the season, just the seven games that they had left, so, I made my pro debut with them, and that was pretty much the highlight of my hockey career so far,” Todd said.
“My next year I signed with Quad City, I went to Chicago Wolves camp in the American League, thought I had a really good camp, I was sent down to Quad City, and it was a learning curve for me because I was young. I then ended up taking my schooling package and I went to school to play for Carleton. Really appreciate everything they did for me, they kind of turned the year around for me because it was a tough start to the year,” he added.
Following his time with those three teams, Todd was picked up off waivers by the Beast and is now in his third season down in Brampton.
So far, while with the Beast, Todd has played in 112 games, recording 42 goals and 43 assists for a total of 85 points.
“It’s been pretty awesome. It’s one of only two teams in Canada in this league, so, we’re in the States a lot, and it’s a lot of travel and stuff like that, but they were the one that gave me the opportunity,” Todd said.
Due to being one of only two Canadian teams in the ECHL – with the other Canadian team located in Newfoundland – Todd and the Beast play a lot of their games in the States, which requires seven-hour bus rides.
“If we leave from Toronto, we’ll have a flight at 6:00 a.m., so we’ll have to be there by four in the morning, and then it’s about a four-hour flight to Newfoundland, we land. Four hours doesn’t sound too bad, but when you’ve got to be at the airport for four and you’re not in your hotel until two and you haven’t eaten, or you’ve eaten airport meals, that’s a pretty tough trip,” Todd said about the trips to face off against the Newfoundland Growlers.
“Road trips on the bus, they’re not too bad a lot of the time, we usually drive through the night. Teams are closer, like Toledo, or Kalamazoo, they’re five hours away, so we’ll go up the day before, we’ll practice, and we’ll stay there that night and play the next day, and then we’ll usually come back or go to wherever we’re going from,” he added.
The really tough bus trips are when the team has three games in three days.
“A tough one would be playing at home in Brampton at 7:00 p.m., we play Toledo, and then we have to get on the bus right after the game, drive to Adirondack, play Saturday at 7:00 p.m., it’s a seven hour drive, especially with hitting the border, everyone has to get off the bus with a passport and do that stuff,” Todd said.
“So, we probably show up around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, and then we play that night at 7:00, and then we’ll have to bus all the way back to Brampton, show up around the same time around seven or eight in the morning, and we have to play at two in the afternoon against whether it’s Adirondack or another team coming in. By the end of the weekend, you definitely need a day off. Your body is exhausted,” he added.
Typically, for a road trip against the Adirondack Thunder, since the bus ride is seven hours, the team will depart from Brampton on Wednesday at midnight for a Friday game.
“So, everyone has to get to the rink by midnight, pack our bags, load them onto the trailer, and get on the bus. We would drive through the night, so, through the night, guys will hang out a little bit, because it’s about 40 minutes to an hour drive to the border, so guys will play cards or whatever,” Todd said.
“Then once we pass through the border everyone goes to sleep, sleeps through the night, once the bus gets there, we have our breakfast, usually in Adirondack we’d have breakfast at the hotel. We sign in, then we’d go to the rink, we have a practice that day, so we’d practice Thursday and have video and then that would be our day and you’re on your own for the night. Go get a good meal. And then the next day you’d go through your game day routine,” he added.
On road trips to the States, the team travels in a sleeper bus with bunks for the team to sleep in.
“So, there are bunks for everyone, and we usually have 20-22 people on the bus including trainers and stuff, maybe 24, so everyone has a bunk. But usually at the back, we usually play cards, or we throw on a movie, or a lot of guys like to lay down and watch a movie. But usually it’s just joking around in the back,” he said.
Although game day routines are the same at home or on the road, the away team practices an hour later than the home team.
“If we play Friday night, we get up, have breakfast, go to the rink, we’d have a morning skate. A morning skate home team would skate at 10:15 and away team at 11:15, so we’d have to be there an hour before, minimum. We do video before ice, have a quick skate to get a feel for the puck and stuff like that. After the skate, there is more video to do. You get home, have a cooked pre game meal around 12:30 or one, have a nap, usually try to aim for an hour and a half,” Todd said about a general game day.
“If it’s a good day sometimes two, but sometimes that’s a little too long, get up, make some coffee or go get coffee on the way to the rink, hop into your suit, and go to the game. I get to the rink, tape my sticks, we have a little more video and team meetings, and then you’re on your own. You go warm up, you do whatever you want, you just have to be ready to go on the ice for on ice warm ups when the clock hits 15 on the hour,” he added.
Like most hockey players, Todd has a certain superstition he follows getting ready for every game.
“I always like to put my left gear on before my right gear. So, if there’s a pair of anything, I put my left skate on before my right, I put my left elbow pad on before my right, I put my left shin pad on before my right,” Todd said.
“I don’t know why I do it, it’s just kind of like a comfort thing, but it’s the way I do it, and since I’ve been getting ready like that for so many years, I don’t even think about it. I know I can do it now,” he added.
Todd’s time in hockey has also allowed him to meet his girlfriend, Connor Galway.
“Nate and I have known each other for a long time, I guess you could say that hockey is the reason that we ultimately met each other. At the time, I was billeting away from home, in Ottawa, and Nate was billeting to play hockey and go to school at my home high school. We eventually met through a mutual friend that he met while there and the rest is history,” Galway said about how she met Todd.
Like Todd, Galway began skating at the age of three. Ironically, hockey was a sport that her parents didn’t watch.
Throughout her hockey career, Galway has played for the Ottawa Lady Senators and the Toronto Aeros of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).
“Both of those organizations are really great. I played with Ottawa for many years and made a lot of friends that became family. For my final 2 years in the PWHL, before I went to university, I decided to move to Toronto to play with the Aeros for Dave Gwyn,” Galway said.
“It was a really tough decision for me at the time because Ottawa was my home and those teammates were my family, but the Aeros really welcomed me with open arms and it was a good fit. I met a lot of really great people, people that I’m still friends with to this day,” she added.
Following her time with the Aeros, Galway made the move to Boston University (BU) to play for the Terriers in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“One of my absolute favorite parts about playing for BU was the environment there, mainly the support that the women’s hockey team received from the BU Band. They are incredible and their dedication is equally as incredible,” Galway said.
“They were always there, without fail for home games and even travelled many times to support us. When we won the Beanpot against Harvard, at Harvard, the Band and the BU dog pound really made it feel like it was a home game for us. During my junior year, they all got on a bus to surprise us for playoffs, in Maine of all places. We came downstairs in the hotel to go out to the bus and they were all there playing for us and cheering for us,” she added.
Having a boyfriend who plays the same sport, Galway has been able to grow her game off of watching Todd play, and vice versa.
“We’re a little more different in playing, she’s a more shut down defenceman, and I kind of find myself as a 200 foot centreman, I try to play the full game, and I definitely watch her play because she’s on the defensive side, and I think that’s the most important part of the game,” Todd said.
“I definitely watched a lot of her games whether it was in person or online. It was kind of cool because we’d be able to critique each other’s games, and she has no problem telling me what I did wrong, and vice versa, I can tell her, maybe this would have been a better option, but she can come back at me the next night with something about my game, so, I think that helped us a lot in getting better as a player,” he added.
Knowing Todd has also allowed Galway to understand him as a hockey player through his personality.
“He was raised right and his parents taught him what it means to be a good person. He genuinely cares about the people around him, and he would go out of his way to help anyone if they needed it or didn’t.
He’s not the loudest guy in the group but he’s the kind to lead by example in the way that he works and carries himself,” Galway said.
“He has been through a lot of adversity, more than most would know, and I think that it has continuously made him a better person and a better player,” she added.
Due to the adversity Todd has faced, he’s been able to grow on and off the ice to become the player he is today.
Although Todd has been cut from teams, he has said his biggest adversity is his injuries.
In his first year with the Beast, Todd sprained his knee with twenty games left in the season. Then last year, he separated his shoulder in the first game of the post season and was out for the rest of the year.
“I think for Nate, it wasn’t ever so much the injuries themselves, but the timing of those injuries that were difficult. For example, he had a really great season last year and was extremely excited going into playoffs on a streak, and to be playing Newfoundland,” Galway said.
“For him to be put out in the first period of game one of the playoffs was devastating for him. He felt like he needed to help his team, but couldn’t at that time and that was really hard for him. Over the summer he worked so hard, to make sure that he was ready for this season and that he would be able to help his team,” she added.
Through the injuries, Todd’s teammates and the team were “topnotch” for him in recovering.
“They know their job, they knew exactly what the problem was and exactly what to do, and they would help me out every day, and it was their job to get you back on the ice and be 100 per cent, so, they definitely knew what they were doing,” Todd said.
“I received a lot of help from teammates and stuff like that because there are a lot of older guys that when I played in my first year, they knew exactly what I was going through, and what I had to do, and if I looked down one day or I just wasn’t having it and I was annoyed because I was sitting out, they’d be there to pick you up and I feel like I’ve learned from them,” he added.
Although he has faced adversity, Todd feels it has helped shape him into being a better player.
“On the ice, just being at the pro level. My first year was a learning curve, like I said, but every year I feel like I’ve learned the league more, been more responsible in the way that I play, and in the way that I handle things,” Todd said.
“And then in real life, it’s just every year you learn to be a respectful person, be a good person all the time. I live by the words respect people like the way you want to be respected,” he added.
Growing and experiencing the game has also allowed Todd to take pride in taking care of his body in preparing for upcoming seasons.
“Biggest thing for me is taking care of myself, taking care of my body, taking care of the way that I handle myself. I’m big on being ready to play. We play a sport, we’re expected to be in shape, ready to go, so, everyone thinks that hockey athletes have the summers off, but we really don’t,” Todd said.
“It’s usually a pretty expensive summer, and it’s a pretty grueling summer, whether it’s a schedule for working out, eating properly, a lot of the time you’re friends are going out and you’re not, you can’t do it, you’re going to have to miss weekends when you’re friends are going out,” he added.
Todd has also been able to further grow by leaning on the support and influence his parents, siblings, and coaches have shown him.
“Obviously, my parents are number one. They’re the biggest supporters for me, them and my brother and sister, so, they’ve obviously influenced me a lot. Sometimes when I didn’t think I would keep it going, or whatever happened, they were there to help me out to help me push through, and help me prove people wrong. Whether if I lost sight in loving the sport, everything I was going through at the time, my head was pushing it away, but they were always there to bring me back down and help me out,” Todd said.
“Throughout my whole life, I’ve had some really good coaches, especially when I was young, I had some great teachers that I thought developed my game a lot, and the way that I see the game, but every coach that I’ve had throughout all my years has helped me be the person and the player I am today,” he added.
Todd also credited the family dynamic of a hockey team as helpful and supportive.
“It’s pretty crazy. It’s obviously not like other jobs. You have 20 plus guys all in one room, you’re with them every day, and they’re all your brothers, so it’s pretty awesome. Everyone looks out for everyone, and any team that wins, it’s a tight knit group, and everyone respects everyone, and that’s usually what it is on every hockey team. And you need it, for sure,” he said.
In terms of the future, Todd hopes to go to the NHL and one day live out the dream he had when he was a little boy.
“I feel like it’s everyone’s goal. If you’re playing pro hockey and you don’t want to make it to the NHL, I think you’re lying to yourself,” Todd said.
“Whether it happens or not who knows, you just got to plat it day by day and year by year, and just always try to get better, and whether I play hockey in North America for the rest of my life or I go over to Europe, whatever it comes down to, I’m happy with it, and I feel lucky to be able to play the game.”