Georgia teen with autism eyes professional hockey career

When Daniel LeCompte was a child, doctors told his mother that he likely wouldn’t be able to speak.

This past year, he was among the most dynamic scorers in the Georgia Student Hockey League.

Now, after graduating from Forsyth Central earlier this summer, he’s hoping to launch his hockey career as a member of the Boston Junior Bruins.

“I feel the sport changed me as an individual,” LeCompte said. “If it wasn’t for hockey, I probably wouldn’t be as confident. My doctor, when (my mom) took me in, was like, ’Your kid’s going to need someone next to him for his whole life, because he’s not going to be able to talk normally.”

LeCompte was diagnosed with autism, Tourette’s and obsessive-compulsive disorder while attending Chattahoochee Elementary School.

Not long after, LeCompte’s mother, Stacie LeCompte, signed Daniel up for the North Miracle Metro League to get him involved with sports.

And when he around 6 or 7 years old, Daniel attended his first Atlanta Thrashers game through the North Miracle Metro League.

“After that first game, I was just like, ‘I want to be on the ice and try this stick-puck game that they’re playing,’” he said. “Then I just picked it up from there.”

Daniel began to shoot a street hockey ball into the trash can at the end of his driveway. He’d bounce shots off the fireplace in the living room — anything to get his shots in.

Eventually, the solitude of practicing at home was replaced with real, live action games in front of a boisterous crowd at The Ice in Cumming.

Too raucous for Daniel at times.

“Somebody sprayed (an airhorn) one time in here and he stopped what he was doing, he put his stuff down and held his head,” Stacie said. “I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ And I was like, ‘Hey, please don’t do that because he can’t deal with that noise.’”

When he was about 12 years old, as Daniel recalls, one of the opposing players pinned him against the board and delivered a blow to the back of his head.

Stacie is a paramedic and had seen enough.

“My mom and my brother were screaming, telling them, ‘Get off my kid. It’s not fair. There was no call.’ She took me out of hockey for three or four years,” Daniel said.

Daniel used that time to try other sports. He tried his hand at baseball, basketball and lacrosse, but Daniel always felt like a natural hockey player.

He said that when he’s playing hockey, he feels as though nobody is judging him because of his disabilities, only his skill on the ice.

Daniel made his way back to the sport in high school. He played for the Georgia Student Hockey League’s Forsyth team, and during the 2020-21 school year, he was named the league’s top offensive player in the ‘A’ division. Daniel accounted for 28 points — 14 goals, 14 assists — and scored two goals on six separate occasions.

“I knew it was my last year,” he said. “My sophomore and junior years, I only had five, six or seven points.”

Meanwhile, Daniel found his time in the classroom to be challenging.

“When I see something misspelled or misplaced in a sentence or in a problem, I catch it,” Daniel said. “I can’t even do that problem. I can’t even think, ‘A, B, C or D.’ I have to in my mind fix it on my own.”

In addition to keeping up with the coursework, Daniel faced bullying because of his disabilities. He said his Tourette’s would flare up and people would say, ‘What’s that noise,’ then turn around and look at him and tell him to be quiet.

“I went to school the first two weeks, but then I had panic attacks and super bad anxiety,” Daniel said. “I would stay in the car and be like, ‘Mom, I can’t go in the classroom. I just can’t do it.’”

That’s one of the reasons Daniel is planning to major in health and physical education at Georgia State University, to become a coach or physical education teacher and help teenagers like him.

Daniel figured his time as a hockey player was over once high school ended, but he decided to reach out to a few junior league coaches in the Northeast.

Finally, he heard from a coach with the Boston Junior Bruins asking if he’d be interested in coming up to Marlborough, Massachusetts, to see if he would be a good fit.

“This was the same exact day that we found out that he got into Georgia State University,” Stacie said. “It was all crammed into one and I was like, ‘Oh, God. Now what are we going to do?’”

“I was tearing up,” Daniel said. “It was a lot.”

Daniel’s goal is to play in the National Hockey League, and playing junior league hockey would set him in the right direction.

The team plays a 56-game schedule, allotting time for practice, strength training and studying.

Stacie said it also requires $7,000 down and an addition $3,000 paid over eight months. She’s hoping a GoFundMe account can generate some revenue to help send Daniel to Massachusetts.

“That’s always been his goal in life,” Stacie said. “That’s what he’s always wanted to do, is be a hockey player. And I’m like, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pick something else. You don’t know what’s going to happen.’”

Daniel isn’t sure what’s going to happen, but he is sure of one thing.

“You’ve just got to try,” Daniel said. “If you don’t try, then you don’t 100 percent know. You can be the best at it or the worst at it. As long as you try, you can set yourself a goal and go step by step.”

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