Contributed by Ruth Walker (Whitby, ON)
When did you start playing hockey?
I started playing organized hockey at the age of six.
What path did you follow to get where you are today?
I had played rep hockey through the Whitby Minor Hockey Association from when I was six years old to age fifteen. From there, I was drafted to the Erie Otters in the 3rd round 51st overall and began my junior career there before I was traded to Oshawa and played two-and-a-half seasons there before signing an NHL contract with the Anaheim Ducks. I currently play for their farm team in the AHL: the Iowa Chops.
When did you know it was going to be more than recreation? How did you know it?
My OHL draft year I started to think I could possibly use hockey as a way to get schooling paid for, but it was only during my third year in the OHL that I believed I could make a living doing this.
Did you ever dream of the NHL?
Definitely, ever since I could remember I always watched Hockey Night in Canada and dreamed of playing in the NHL, and I still do to this day.
What was it like playing that first NHL game?
I was lucky enough to play an NHL exhibition game vs. the San Jose Sharks. It was one of the most exiting things I have ever been a part of. The building was packed, loud and I just went out worked hard and had fun.
What about coaching?
Many sports offer junior participants the chance to assist coach, referee, and sometimes work in the administration end — marketing and assist/managing teams — help out at hockey clinics, etc.
I was a referee for a year when I was fifteen; because of that experience I have an appreciation for what they do—it’s a lot harder than it seems. I also visit schools, restaurants, anything to make an appearance and promote the game, sportsmanship, or just being a good person. It is a goal of mine to become a coach one day. I think I would excel at it and I would love to do that after my career is over.
If you had a daughter or son who wanted to play hockey, what advice would you offer her or him?
I would just tell them to have fun. It sounds simple but it’s the truth, I never had ANY pressure to play hockey. I have heard horror stories of parents trying to force their kids to play and would yell at them. My parents were the most positive parents who only supported me throughout my journey. I would do the same for my children.
Would you ever like to teach hockey?
Definitely! In the summer I currently work for a number of hockey schools including power skating, goalie schools, and defenceman camps. This year I am fortunate enough to be running my own hockey camp for defenceman.
What about teaching Phys Ed?
I have always thought about it, especially in high school—it is something I would enjoy doing. I am the person who could not sit in a cubicle. My whole life has revolved around sports and I would need to stay active.
How do you think playing this sport has been good for your future?
I think I have made a lot of connections playing hockey and it has given me a chance to travel and earn a living. It has also kept me in great shape and busy.
How do you think playing this sport did not help your future?
Well there are definitely sacrifices made. For instance, I moved away from home, the first time at age 16. My body will probably be in a lot of pain as I get older from all of the pounding on my joints, but I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.
Who is your hockey role model?
My hockey role model is Nicklas Lidström from the Detroit Redwings. He is the best defenceman on the planet and you can pick up so much just from watching one of his games.
Who is you non-hockey role model?
Definitely my father—he is the smartest person I know. He’s 55 years-old, works out two hours every day, and is always striving to learn more and never gets complacent with himself.
Can you tell me a bit about your family, where you grew up?
My father Chris was a part time actor, has put out a CD and is heavily involved in an up-and-coming business. My mother Diana does accounting services for Ford—she is the glue of our family and had done so much for everyone in my family and I am forever grateful.
My sister Becky is 23—she is a dance teacher and is also my best friend—we have always had a good relationship together and we always will. I grew up in Whitby, Ontario, and my parents still live in the house I grew up in. I went to Pringle Creek PS, and I attended Anderson Collegiate & Vocational Institute and Henry Street High School.
I played many sports growing up as a child. I played hockey in the winter and that’s where it ended except that I would practise stick handling occasionally in the summer. I played volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, and I took karate, and ran track and field and cross country. That’s not counting the sports I would play in the schoolyard with my friends. I was working on my overall athleticism—not just hockey.
I truly believe you pick up talents in other sports that apply to your core sport. It also keeps you hungry; when winter rolled around I was hungry for when hockey season started when summer came I felt the exact same for lacrosse.