Australia’s first-ever NHL player Nathan Walker said it was a “dream come true” as he scored a goal in his side’s win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Walker, wearing No.79, came off the bench in the second minute of the game in his team’s 6-1 win, the Capitals second win of the NHL season.
He scored his first goal, and the Capitals sixth for the match, with 1:55 left in the second period.
Walker said he was happy to be out on the ice after being left out of the squad for the Capitals’ season-opening win over the Ottawa Senators.
“I’m just happy to be out there playing hockey, especially with these guys out here, it’s a dream come true,” he said.
Ace goal, mate!
— NHL (@NHL) October 8, 2017
Walker’s family were in the US to watch the game, bringing an Australian flag to hold in the stands of the Verizon Centre in Washington.
Speaking before the match, Walker’s brother Ryan said his younger sibling showed the drive to reach the NHL from an early age.
“His pure determination has gotten him where he is today,” he said.
“I knew he was different when he was two minutes old, he was a pocket rocket of a kid, just so much energy and did everything to keep up, I’m seven years older and he kept up with us.”
Long journey from Australia to the ice
Walker was born in Wales, but moved with his family to Sydney when he was two years old.
After being introduced to the sport by his brother, Ryan, Walker moved on his own to the Czech Republic at age 13 to play minor and then junior hockey, after being limited by the opportunities in Australia.
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) October 8, 2017
He spent several years playing in the USA with an NHL feeder team, the Hershey Bears, before becoming the first Australian drafted into the NHL when he was selected in the third round by the Washington Capitals in 2014.
Walker’s mother, Kerry, said she would always remember the moment she took him to the Czech Republic to follow his dream, but said seeing him on the ice in the USA had made the long journey worthwhile.
“But it has been so worth it, so worth it,” she said.
Walker’s father, Wayne, said he had always suspected he would make it to the league.
“The determination within the kid, it’s tremendous,” he said.
“He seems to go for every goal he sets himself, and now he’s got to one of his final goals and I know personally he’s set himself another.”
Walker progress on track
Meanwhile, Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said Walker had developed in a “penalty killer” and said the team had noticed significant strides in Walker’s game.
“We’ve always liked his speed and his compete level, those were the two things that we really liked about him,” MacLellan said.
“He just continues to become a better player – better positionally, he reads the game better, more intelligent on his reads – instead of being a pure energy player.”