Saturday, October 7, 2017 - Submitted by Bernard McNamara
Nathan Walker will make ice hockey history today, as he becomes the first Australian to play in the NHL, the first in the NHL's 100 years. Walker will step onto the ice at the Capital One Arena tonight as a member of the Washington Capitals to face the Montreal Canadiens, one of oldest and most storied franchises in the NHL.
Support for the Aussie making hockey history has been pouring out from across the internet. His family and fiancé who’ve made the trip from Cronulla, Australia to witness Australian sporting history will cheer Walker on from the stands.
Walker has also received messages of support from other Australian sports stars who’ve played and been successful in US sports, including NBA forward Andrew Bogut and pro golfer Jason Day.Even Australia's Ambassador to the USA, the Hon. Joe Hockey has been caught up in the excitement and will be attending tonight's game in DC.
Walker took part in the Capitals morning team skate at the Kettler Iceplex, before making his way to the Capital’s Red Carpet walk for their opening home game of the season. In an interview with the AIHL’s Bernard McNamara, Walker spoke of his experience arriving at Capital One, walking the red carpet alongside the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“It was incredible seeing all the people coming into the rink, wanting autographs, its really special,” said Walker.
“Its definitely an exciting time right now,” continued Walker, “I’m really looking forward to getting out there and getting the game in.”
Walker will take his place on the Capitals forth line, alongside Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.
“Beagle and I played a few pre-season games together in previous years, so we know each other’s style” said Walker, “and Smith-Pelly is really good to play with, he’s really consistent which has definitely helped me out.”
Nathan understands the impact his NHL debut could have on hockey in Australia.
“It’s huge (news) for ice hockey back home. I hope it pushes them a bit harder.”
Asked if he had a message for young Aussie ice hockey players looking to chase their own hockey dream, he gave this advice:
“Follow your dreams, no matter how big they are you need to set goals and pursue them.”
The Capitals will host the Montreal Canadiens at 10am ADT today, fans can catch all the action on NHL TV. Look out for #79.
NATHAN WALKER'S JOURNEY TO THE NHL
On the Caps Roster
Walker made the Capital's 23-man roseter earlier this week, on the back of a strong pre-season training camp with the NHL team, and stellar season with the Hershey Bears.
Nathan knew his road to the NHL wouldn't be easy, but was determined to make it work. Photo: AIHL.
Eye on the Prize
Earlier this year, Walker was back in Australia, catching up with former Australian national team teammates at an AIHL game and spoke with the AIHL Podcast crew Bernard McNamara and Stephen White about his season with the Hershey Bears and staying focused on the ultimate prize.