Leslie E. Tabobondung was born December 30, 1937 to Flora and Leslie Tabobondung. The eldest of four children, Les is Anishnawbe from Parry Island (Wasauksing) First Nation. Les learned to skate on Hay Bay when he was 7 years old. His first pair of skates belonged to his Aunt Thelma.
Les began playing house league hockey in Parry Sound at the age of 12 and recalls his first coach was Bill Langford. When Les was 13 years old, he suffered a severe concussion as a result of a skating collision on Georgian Bay and was unable to play for the season.
At the age of 16, hockey scouts started coming to watch Les while he played for the Parry Sound rep team. Throughout his junior years, Les was invited to four tryout camps, consisting of: Hamilton Red Wings Junior ‘A’, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Catherines Teepees Junior ‘A’, and Sarnia Legionnaires Junior ‘B’.
At 17, he was invited to tryout camp with the Hamilton Red Wings Junior ‘A’ hockey team, farm team for the Detroit Red Wings. Les recalls he and Ralph Langford attended the tryouts that involved three days of practice and scrimmage. Coach Mike Kolisnek drove them to the tryouts.
Les played for Parry Sound Shamrocks Junior ‘C’ from age 18 to 20. In 1956-57 they won the All- Ontario Championship. Les valued the exceptional year he had playing with the forward line consisting of Ron Harris, Ivan Nicksy, and coached by Mike Kolisnek. Les was very grateful to Alex Eager for his support to all the young people who were playing hockey.
When Les was 19, he received a letter from the Chicago Blackhawks inviting him to their tryout camp and reminisces about practicing along legendary Chicago Blackhawks players including, Ted Lindsay, Ed Litzenberger, Bobby Hull, and Al Arbour. Les then joined the St. Catherines Teepees Junior ‘A’ team (Chicago Blackhawks’ Junior A farm team) for a month, playing along side greats like Stan Makita, Bobby Hull, Johnny McKenzie, Fred Stanfield
Les recalls he and Stan Mikita would sometimes play pool together when they were off the ice. Ted Lindsay showed Les around when he arrived in St. Catherines and made him feel welcome. Rudy Pilous, coach of the St. Catherines Teepees had driven Les and Fred Stanfield to Toronto after they were cut from the team, and offered the following advice to Les, “You know Les, don’t stop playing hockey, you can make a living out of it.”
Les’ career then took him to the Sarnia Legionnaires Junior ‘B’ team.
Mel Guidotti and Alec Eager both contacted Les while he was playing for Sarnia, and urged him to return to Parry Sound to play for the Parry Sound Shamrocks Junior ‘C’s.
In 1958, Les was invited to play for the Sundridge Beavers by their coach Bucko McDonald. Their team won the All Ontario Intermediate ‘B’ title. Les played in a senior league for Orillia Pepsi in 1961-1962. In the early 1970’s, Les played for Parry Sound Shamrocks Men’s team, with teammates Rod Bloomfield, Ron Orr, and other local players when they played exhibition games in Boston.
In 1961, Les started Les Tabobondung Construction providing an opportunity for men in the community to have jobs from housing and cottage development. He later diversified his business to include road construction and maintenance. Through his construction business, he built many homes on Parry Island and employed up to 30 people. It was a successful company that met its intended purpose of building an economy in the community.
Following his hockey career, Les coached the children and youth in the community in minor hockey and softball. In the mid 1960’s the Parry Island Band built an outdoor rink that was maintained by Les. The Parry Island Chief and Council had a vision to provide an outdoor rink for all children and youth to skate and play hockey. Les coached minor hockey in the 1970’s and helped to assemble and coach two local Parry Island boys teams that played in the Parry Sound Minor hockey league and travelled to the provincial Little NHL Native hockey tournament.
In the mid 1970’s, the Parry Island softball team was started and coached by Mary Ellen King. Following her departure, Les was asked to coach the young team. Les coached the team at the local and provincial levels and the team went on to win various championship titles. His three daughters played on the team and his children recall waking up early to go jogging in the summer and skating in the winter with him, before going to school.
Les was a great supporter, teacher and mentor for his son Barry ‘Hawk’ Tabobondung to be a great hockey player and athlete and to continue to strive for excellence. Barry was drafted 3rd round 47th overall in the NHL draft in 1981. Barry was inducted into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in 2003 during the First Annual Induction Ceremony.
Les was elected as Councillor for Parry Island Band for eight two-year terms from 1972 to 1984 and 1993 to 1997. He was a board member and President of Wasauksink Lands Inc. (WLI), from 1972 to 2010.
In August 2014, Les received an award at the 2014 All-Ontario Native Fastball Championships in recognition of the years of commitment to the Parry Island Women’s Fastball Team.
Throughout his life, Les actively modeled athleticism, determination, perseverance, responsibility, business development and leadership. Today in his seventies as a respected Elder in his community, he continues to enjoy skating on Hay Bay.