Hockey is synonymous with North America and Canada, particularly the National Hockey League (NHL). Yet hockey, not to be confused with what is known as field hockey in the United States, is played all around the world, including Australia.
Ice hockey was first played in Adelaide in 1904. According to the Ice Hockey Australia, there are approximately 4,800 registered players (men, women and juniors) and officials in Australia. The country’s biggest hockey star is by far Nathan Walker.
Walker, 23, became the first Australian to play in the NHL on Saturday in the Washington Capitals’ 6-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens. He also scored in the second period, becoming the first Aussie to do so.
“As a kid you’re always thinking you’ll play in the NHL one day,” Walker told reporters after his debut. “I just tried to take it all in and enjoy myself. (Scoring is) incredible; a really special moment and proud moment, too.”
A forward, Walker was a third-round pick (No. 89) by the Capitals in the 2014 NHL Draft. Walker, 5 ft. 9, 186 pounds, had 17 goals and 24 assists in 73 regular-season games for Hershey of the American Hockey League (AHL) during the 2016-17 season.
Born in Cardiff, Wales, Walker relocated with his family to Sydney when he was two years old. He first began playing hockey when he was six, inspired by his older brother, Ryan, as well as watching The Mighty Ducks (1992) and Mystery, Alaska (1999).
Walker headed to the Czech Republic to play when he was 13 years old and after six years playing there, he signed a contract to play in the United States Hockey League, the junior U.S. league. A year later he was signed by the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
“He’s chased his dream across the world and there’s no fear, absolutely no fear,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He left his home at a young age, went continents away and he’s a great story. That’s a great inspiration to any person who is passionate not only about hockey but any sport. He’s a real good story.”
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