Nathan Walker NHLs first Australian player took long tough r

Nathan Walker NHLs first Australian player took long tough r


WASHINGTON Dozens Joshuah Bledsoe Jerseys of young players get a chance to realize their childhood dream of skating in their first game in the NHLevery season, but Washington's Nathan Walker went a bit further than most to try and realize his goal.

The 23-year-old Walker became the first Australian to play in the 100-year history of the NHL Saturday night in Washington, andskating for a profe sional team nearly 10,000 miles from home wasnt an easy trek.

He left his hometown of Sydney in 2011 at the age of 13 to play for Vitkovice HC in the Czech Republic for two years, speaking no Czech when he left home. After spending parts of two seasons there, he then went to North America two years later to join the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms.

MORE: His play earned him an invitation to Washingtons training camp in 2013, and his solid effort landed the undrafted player an AHL contract with Hershey. A year later, Washington took the unusual step of drafting him in the third round as a 19-year-old to keep him in the organization. He spent four years in total withthe Bears, playing withan edge that nearly got him a call-up from Washington last season before he broke his hand blocking a shot, which ended his call-up hopes.

Although it came a few months later than Washington planned, Walker finally got a chance Mike Onwenu Jerseys to play in the NHL in the Capitals' 6-1 win over the Canadiens at Capital One Arena. To add to the Hollywood-like script, he even notched .

Meet Nathan Walker. He's from Australia. And he's really good at hockey.

Washington Capitals (@Capitals)

It was amazing," a beaming Walker said in the Capitals' locker room after the game, answering questions from media as far away as his home country with a smile. "As a kid, youre always thinking youre going to play in the NHL one day and be there. I tried to take it all in and enjoy yourself.

Walker's debut was also a little unorthodox, as the team i sued a full-fledged pre s release announcing he would be in the lineup not the usual protocol for a fourth-line energy player and he also chatted with media from his home country via a conference call just 2 hours beforepuck drop.

MORE:He receivedwell-wishes on video from , including the Los Angeles Lakers Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks Thon Maker, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Grand Balfour, golfers Adam Scott and Jason Day, as well as the appropriately named Australian amba sador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, who attended the game.

And on Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Chase Winovich Jerseys Malcolm TurnbullcalledWalker to congratulate him on a succe sfuldebut.

. was honored with a call from Australian Prime Minister for being the first Au sie to play in the

Washington Capitals (@Capitals)

Walker's family flew infrom Australia to be in the sellout crowd for Washington's home opener, with his mother Ceri holding the Australian national flag in her lap and even earning an interview on CBC's"Hockey Night in Canada"during the third period.

Nathan Walker's family finds out he scored his first NHL goal

Scott Matla (@scottmatla)

Barry Trotz has been coaching profe sional hockey since 1990 and helped shape young players coming up through the AHL and in Nashville and Washington, but the Washington coach said afterwardthat Walker's debut was something special.

"I think thats just a fabulous story for any young person anywhere in the world, really, that wants to be a part of this great game," he said."He focused on something that he wanted and had a pa sion for and its a pretty good story.

Walker discovered the sport of hockey from watching "The Mighty Ducks," and the rugby-turned-hockey player quickly outgrew his competition in Australia, and decided to head to Europe to play against better competition.


I think the road was a long, tough one, but the will to keep at it and keep working hard paid off, Walker said of his long journey acro s continents to reach his moment.

"Hes chased his dream acro s the world, and there is no fear," Trotz said of Walker. "Absolutely no fear. He left his home at a young age and went continents away."

The 5-9, 186-pound forward, while not big in size, plays with a lot Arlington Hambright Jerseys of intensity, and according to Trotz, hes willing to hustle and work hard every shift.

"I think the thing that will be most telling about him is hes real, hes pa sionate," Trotz said. "On the bench, its fun. Guys love him, because he lays it on the line every shift, every moment.He is fearle s, fearle s in the way he plays, and fearle s in how he pursued his pa sion, he added. Hes a real guy.

MORE Kendrick Bourne Jerseys :

Walker's hustle also paid off in his debut, as when he created traffic off a faceoff with two minutes left in the second period, a Devante Smith-Pelley shot from the top of the circle deflected off Walker's leg and into the net.

While the goal was originally credited to Smith-Pelley as the second period drew to a close, Walker knew that it probably was going to be his.

"At first it wasnt 100 percent sure if I was hit by a stick or the puck, they reviewed and had a look," he said.

Washington PA announcer Wes Johnson didn't announce the scoring change until nearly seven minutes into the third period, but when it came over the speakers, Walkers surprised mother was shown jumping up and hugging his fiancee, waving the flag of their home land.

when the goal was officially announced as Nathan Walker's

steph (@myregularface)

On the ice, Alex Ovechkin skated over to the bench, giving him a pat on the helmet.

For Walker and the Capitals, they hope the road to the NHL is the beginning of a long career, and not just for him New England Patriots Pet Gear , but also open up more interest in the game in Australia, where just 4,111 of 22 million play hockey, according to the IIHF, as well as those in other non-traditional hockey countries where players have to make tough choices to pursue their dreams.

"Thats a great inspiration to any person who is pa sionate about not only hockey, but any sport," Trotz said. "If its untraditional, it can happen."

Hopefully I can inspire them a little bit," Walker said. "It can be done from Australia, and to have dreams and follow them and pursue them and do what it takes to get where they want to go.

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