Kids flock to Kenai ice to "Skate with Nate" and dream big

When Nate Thompson, co-captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was three years old his dad took him to a Sea Wolves hockey game and he says he fell in love with the sport and started skating shortly thereafter. While Thompson resides in the Sunshine State, these days his father Dr. Robert Thompson M.D. lives and practices in Soldotna. On a recent trip home the popular center for the Lightning took an afternoon, and rather than pursue his love of trout fishing on the Peninsula, spent the day with kids who have the same dream he had when he was three years old. It was called “Skate with Nate” and over 80 young skaters donned their favorite jerseys and skates and joined Nate Thompson on the ice in Kenai. Thompson spent one on one time with each boy and girl who came by for a photo and questions about life as a pro hockey player.

“I grew up in Anchorage but I spent a lot of time in Kenai when I was growing up and whenever you can give back to the community it’s a great thing. Alaska has produced some great players like Lee Green and Scott Gomez, that have put Alaska on the map, and whenever you can help out kids, we’re helping the next generation of greats hold on to their dream and keep Alaska the great place it is,” Thompson told the Dispatch in an interview. The event not only helped young hockey players believe their dream, it also raised funds to help those whose dream may be to have a roof over their heads someday or simply their first month’s rent through an organization known as Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC), a nonprofit organization that strives to meet needs of the homeless. Nate’s father Dr. Thompson is on the Love INC. board and says Love INC has a focus to make a difference in people’s lives and that he was proud of the broad based community support the organization has received.

Many of the kids skating around were wearing typical NHL jerseys. Pittsburgh, San Jose, Detroit and the New York Rangers were all represented, but the most obvious jersey of choice was the blue and white No. 44 with which Thompson competes. “The next life-long dream is to win the Stanley Cup, but that’ll have to wait until next year,” said Thompson.

As far as the best advice for kids sharing his dream, Nate said “I think the biggest thing I’ve told them is to work hard and have fun. It’s a pretty simple ingredient and it works.”