WALKER FLYING THE FLAG AS FIRST AUSTRALIAN IN THE NHL
Story: Chris McRae
For many young Australian kids, the prospect of pulling on a jersey for a major league sports team is something which is a lifetime goal, a dream or simply a fantasy! The training, dedication, money, time and energy required to pursue this dream is extraordinary and many times includes overseas training camps, sponsorship deals and sacrifices. Being in Australia, the allure of the MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA can seem unattainable for most. However, Australia has now conquered the final frontier of North American sports thanks to a 23 year old Sydney sider by the name of Nathan Walker.
Two dates will now be etched into Australian sporting history. On October 4th 2017, Walker was named to the roster for NHL team, the Washington Capitals, stamping his name as the first ever Australian to make the National Hockey League in it's 100 year history. Just two days later on the evening of 6th October, Walker made his NHL debut in the Capitals' home opener against the Montreal Candiens at Capital One Arena, Washington DC.
Image: Pic by Wulos (www.facebook.com/Pic-by-Wulos)
So just how did a young hockey enthusiast from Sydney end up taking to the ice on hockey's biggest stage? It all started, like many young hockey players in Australia by watching everyone's favourite hockey larrikins...the Mighty Ducks. Walker began playing hockey at the age of six and took to the game at a rapid pace. In 2007, Walker took his game overseas, being picked up by Czech Republic club HC Vikovice. Playing between their Under 18 team and also playing back home for the Sydney Ice Dogs in the Australian Ice Hockey League, Walker would soon find himself in the Senior team for HC Vikovice before North American hockey beckoned.
Walker was signed by the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League during Season 2012-13 during which he played 29 games before missing playoffs due to injury. That year would prove to be pivotal for Walker as he continued his training between Australia and the Czech Republic before being invited to attend the Washington Capitals development camp in September that year. After a solid camp, Walker became the first Australian to enter the American Hockey League and found a home with the Capitals' AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears. Walker played four seasons with the Bears, recording a total of 202 games with 34 goals in the process. In 2014, Walker was granted entry to the NHL radar by being selected by the Capitals in the 2014 entry level draft
After some challenges with injury and continuing to play in Hershey, Walker was back with the Capitals for the 2017 training camp earlier this year. After a gruelling and lengthy camp with fast paced hockey and strict roster cuts, history was made as Walker was named to the Capitals roster, making him the first Australian to enter the NHL!
Behind every great sportsman usually lies a strong support network. Walker is no different. Upon confirmation of Nathan's selection to the Capitals' roster, Mum Ceri, Dad Wayne, brother Ryan and fiance Tayla were on the first plane to Washington. They were lucky enough to be in attendance for Walker's debut on October 6th in Washington and Ceri made sure the Aussie flag was clearly visible from the stands.
I was lucky enough to be contacted by Ceri Walker on the morning of Nathan's debut against the Candiens. "It is very surreal at the moment" she said. "I have no doubt that there will be many tears today but they will be happy tears" she continued. "It's an awesome testament to his dedication and passion for the sport" she concluded.
When people think of ice hockey, Australia is not usually the first place to come to mind. For Nathan Walker however, it is where his hockey roots are firmly planted. The nation's benchmark competition, the Australian Ice Hockey League currently has 8 teams competing (Melbourne Ice, Melbourne Mustangs, Sydney Bears, Sydney Ice Dogs, CBR Brave, Newcastle North Stars, Adelaide Adrenaline and Perth Thunder) and Australia is well represented at National and International competitions in both ice and inline hockey each year!
Walker's entry into the NHL is not only huge for Australian sport, but a major step forward for Australian hockey. It will no doubt see more kids taking up the game as well as bring more exposure to the national league. I will continue to bring you all the updates from Nathan's journey as he progresses. Until then, keep up to date via the Facebook group 'Latest on Stormy- Nathan Walker'.
Information Credits: Elite Prospects and The Australian Ice Hockey League
PERTH SUMMER LEAGUE'S SUPERFANS!
Story: Chris McRae
The Perth Summer League has grown considerably since it's inception with just four teams in 2012 (Elk, Moose, Grizzlies and Wolves). It is now grown to a seven team league with over 100 players pulling on jerseys for the Elk, Moose, Grizzlords, Wolves, Outlaws, Wheat Kings and Crusaders. Along for the ride are a small group of dedicated fans, and none are more dedicated than the Silva Family (Barry, Karen, Courtney and Kirsty). The Silva's attend the majority of Summer League games as well as scrimmages and just can't get enough of their Ice Hockey!
"We enjoy the fact that the games are free, the friendly nature of the players and the fact that the teams are mixed gender" Karen said. "We love being able to chat to the players after games and see how the new players go" she continued.
Being Perth Thunder fans to boot, the Silva's have their favourite players, sporting jerseys with captain names Goransson, Jeffries and Wilson to name a few. However, they enjoy supporting all the teams and their jersey collection is certainly growing every season.
As for their predictions for the Cup:
Barry: Moose or Wolves
Courtney: Wheat Kings
Kirsty: Wolves or Grizzlords
As for Karen. "Well it's like asking me to choose a favourite child" she said. "I would like to see the team who plays the fairest and best win" she continued.
Summer League action kicks off next Wednesday at 6:30pm at Perth Ice Arena, Malaga and games will run from 6:30 on Wednesday and Thursday nights and from 5:30 Sunday's throughout the Spring and Summer months.
PERTH SUMMER LEAGUE JOINS FANCAPS!
Story: Chris McRae
Hey Fancaps fans. Chris McRae here representing Perth Summer League Ice Hockey! I am thrilled to be able to partner up with Fancaps in order to not only promote an up and coming local business from Perth but also bring awareness to the fastest sport on earth...Ice Hockey, which can be viewed right here in WA! Not only am I a huge sports fan, but I have been involved in Ice Hockey, as a player, official and event organiser for five years now, all of which I have spent being a part of the amazing Perth Summer League organisation.
My aim will be to keep you updated on the coolest (literally) sports league in Perth and help bring some awesome hockey and sports content to the Fancaps blog!
A LITTLE ABOUT ME
By day, I am a Performing Arts Teacher and love to find new and innovative ways to bring my passion for Music and Drama to the next generation. I have been married to my amazing wife for close to two years and in my spare time, I love movies, music, books, sport and especially Ice Hockey which I play regularly.
From a sporting perspective, I love supporting local, national and international sport and proudly follow the following teams across various leagues: Geelong Cats (AFL) Perth Thunder (Australian Ice Hockey League), Anaheim Ducks and St Louis Blues (NHL), Perth Heat (Australian Baseball League), Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), LA Rams (NFL) and Toronto Raptors (NBA). Following these teams has sometimes come out of a personal story or connection to the place, players or vibe. More on this later on!
I absolutely love my hockey and have written for both the Australian Ice Hockey League, Hockey Writers and NHL 365 as well as broadcasting regularly for the Perth Thunder in the AIHL. In the Perth Summer League, I have played for 5 seasons and have won three championships in a row with the Wheat Kings (a team inspired by Manitoba's Wheat Fields and modelled off the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings). I will be playing my sixth season of summer hockey this coming October with the Draft for Season 2017/18 next week.
I can't wait to bring you all things Perth Summer League this season and some awesome hockey content (including NHL) as well as some other cool sports content as the season progresses and into the future! This is a sports blog from a fan for the fans!