WASHINGTON - Nathan Walker stands outside the locker room at the Washington Capitals practice facility, ready to return home to Australia, incredibly a Stanley Cup champion.
The 23-year-old’s long and winding road this season saw him make history on multiple occasions. Already the first Australian drafted and signed by an NHL club, Walker made the Caps opening night roster in October, became the first Australian to play in the NHL and the first to score an NHL goal and register a point.
Now, he’s the first and only Australian to win a Stanley Cup.
“I got no words for it, just incredible,” Walker said. “When you’re a kid, that’s all you dream about, and to be able to lift that trophy, it really hits you hard and just… all the feels.”
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Walker spent his whirlwind season playing for the Capitals and their AHL-affiliate in Hershey, as well as two games with the Edmonton Oilers after the team picked him up off waivers early in the year. Ultimately, he returned to Washington after the team reclaimed him off waivers from Edmonton and finished out the season with the Bears.
Shortly after, the Capitals called up Walker for their 2018 playoff run. He played a crucial role in the team’s Game 6 victory against Pittsburgh that sent them to the Eastern Conference Final, setting up Alex Chiasson for Washington’s lone goal in regulation.
“It’s been a great experience, meeting new people, making those friendships that you have for life. I think it goes a long way in the hockey community,” Walker explained. “The hockey community is tight-knit, so it was a great experience.”
Walker first learned about the Stanley Cup when he visited the Hockey Hall of Fame at six years old with his brother. He joked that it was taller than him at the time, and from that point forward, that became a dream as he and his brother played hockey in their garage back home.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be able to do it, to pick that thing up, it’s such an incredible thing.”
As Walker heads back to Sydney, he said he has big plans for the summer, including getting married and working to claim a permanent spot on the Capitals’ roster.
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However, he hopes that he’ll get a day with the Cup, and though he wouldn’t reveal what he wants to do, he said he has “big things planned” and would likely take it back to Australia to share his love for the game with the continent, home of roughly 30 ice rinks.
“It’d be cool to see kids playing street hockey, I think that would be pretty special,” Walker said. “It’s a lot tougher to go to a hockey store and pick up skates and pads and sticks and a helmet then it is to go to a store and pick up a rugby ball.”
Ultimately, though, he hopes that winning the Stanley Cup and getting to bring that experience home, regardless of whether the trophy makes a visit, will spike Australians interest in the game, as well as more awareness for the spot.
“I think it’s changed slightly, but we’ve got long ways to go,” Walker said.
This news has been published by title \'No Words\' As Capitals\' Nathan Walker Becomes First Australian Stanley Cup Champion
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