On Saturday night, a mere three hours west from where I sat watching on television, a National Hockey League preseason game was taking place in the Yardmen Arena in the city of Belleville, Ontario. The community of Sterling-Rawdon won the Kraft Hockeyville challenge and was presented a National Hockey League game in their community.
While the teams of the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets took to the ice that is the home of the Belleville Bulls, only one name stood out to me. No, not Evander Kane or Dustin Byfuglien. Hell, not even Alexander Ovechkin.
That name was Nathan Walker.
Nathan Walker made history Saturday night becoming the first Australian to compete in a preseason NHL game as he skated with the Washington Capitals. He even helped out in the 4-3 shootout win, earning an assist on Washington’s first goal.
Walker was actually born in Wales, United Kingdom but grew up in Australia and found his love for the game. In 2007, he moved to the Czech Republic to help his play, suiting up for both under 18 and under 20 squads. Along the way he made stops in the Australia Ice Hockey League with the Sydney Ice Dogs.
Scouts saw something in this young kid as he signed a contract with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL for 2013. It was here in North America that the NHL started to really pay attention. After failing to be drafted in the 2013 Entry Draft in New Jersey, the Washington Capitals handed him a spot in their training camp leading to his debut Saturday night.
The sky is the limit for Walker. Given his talent and age, there is no doubt to see him in an NHL jersey sooner rather then later. Australia should be proud of the hockey talent they are producing.
Soon enough, and hopefully the world will take notice, the NHL might have a Aussie invasion.