At first, Jean-Gabriel “Gabe” Lacombe couldn’t quite get the hang of the sport he now captains. “I didn’t like [hockey] in the beginning…I couldn’t skate very well,” he admitted. Lacombe was 2 years old when he started skating.
His father encouraged him to keep at it and, eventually, “all my friends started liking hockey so I felt like, ‘I might as well start playing,’” he said. The rest is history.
Now, in his second year at Williston, Lacombe has been named captain of the boys varsity ice hockey team, and focuses all his efforts on academics and hockey during the winter months.
“I pretty much do it by example, because this year we have a bunch of really good guys…I’m just doing my best and they follow,” said Lacombe when asked how he leads the team.
“Leading by example, by his effort, by his enthusiasm,” Lacombe keeps the team’s spirits up and keeps the team focused on the ice and on the bench, agreed Coach Cunha. “He starts the pregame and the off-ice warm-ups on the bus trips, making sure the guys have their attention on the game.”
Coach Cunha called his captain a quiet leader. “[Gabe] will speak up when he needs to, but isn’t going to be the ‘in your face’ type. He really embraces everything that we’re looking for in hockey players,” said Coach Cunha.
Lacombe’s AP Microeconomics teacher Peter Gunn added, “Gabe understands that one of the things about being a leader is creating space for other kids to have an opportunity to show what they have, to offer.”
Joe Sakic, of the Colorado Avalanche, is Lacombe’s hockey role model. “He was a really good player and off the ice he was a good role model,” he said. Like Sakic, Lacombe devotes time to public service: he is a dorm proctor, member of the discipline committee, and honors student.
Born in Canada, Lacombe grew up in, “a really, really small of town of 2,000 people in the northeast of Quebec,” where, he said, during the summers, he works in the grocery next to his house.
Since he was three, his mother has hosted people with mental disabilities. “At home we have six people with Down syndrome and I’ve been taking care of those people all my life with her,” he said.
Growing up, “they were all over 50 years old, but their mental age was around 5 or 6 so, for me, that was great,” he said. “They were my friends and I played hockey with a lot of them in the living room.”
As a child, Lacombe said, he wanted to care for people. Developing a love for biology at Williston, Lacombe wants to pursue medicine while playing hockey in college.
Williston’s Dean of Faculty, Peter Valine, first met Lacombe when he and his father toured campus as a prospective family. “I was immediately impressed with Gabriel’s maturity and the quality of his questions about the school,” remembered Valine.
So, in the fall of 2011 Valine was pleased to find out that Lacombe was enrolled in his U.S. History class. “He was a delightful student to teach because he brought a positive and upbeat attitude to the classroom, and he was an incredibly diligent student,” he said. “Gabe’s presence in the classroom made for a richer learning experience for all of us.”