In case you missed the full story on David Walker’s return to Ontario, click here. After my interview with Walker, Reign head coach Karl Taylor added that the defenseman was curious about learning more about the coaching/management side of hockey.
“David inquired about it. He’ll help in different areas, learn about what we do administratively,” Taylor said. “But he’s a player, number one. If he doesn’t do well, he’ll be benched.”
Walker – who would someday make a great coach for whatever beat writer gets to interview him on a day-to-day basis – had plenty to say that didn’t make it into the paper:
Talk about coming back to Ontario.
“I’m happy. It’s been a 3-week process since I made the decision to come back. I’m disappointed with the way things transpired (in Germany) and the way they went about it. I can’t fault them for thinking about the best thing for their organization. When things went south, I kept in touch with Karl. It came to a point where I made the decision to move on. I talked to Karl and my wife about it and decided that’s the best thing for my future, play another year for the Reign, try to win a championship and move on.
“I got the short end of the stick when the day ended. I’m a little old; if I was younger, I’d be upset a little more. It is what it is. I’ve got a pretty good fallback plan coming back to the Reign.”
How did the whole experience transpire?
“My contract had a one-month camp in it. At the end, they had to decide whether to keep or release me. I went over there, was in really good shape, did well in all the testing. They said nothing but positive things in the meetings, which led me to believe I was going to stay. I had a good camp, I had a couple points, had a fight. I played well. I was told I was playing well. At the last hour before they had to decide, teams were folding and there were less spots for players because Frankfurt folded in the summer time and Kassel folded the day before I got released.
“Because there were less spots for imports, there were already imports that were free agents over there for a couple years, waiting to see what was out there. They told me they were happy with what I had done, but were going to go with another guy who had more experience in the league. I got raw end of the deal. First couple days, there was a bitter taste in my mouth, but when I decided to come back, I was focused on that from the day I decided. It was all about the reign. I’m moved on.”
Talk about the teams that folded, and how it affected you?
“Frankfurt folded in mid-summer. Kassel folded three days before our home opener. They had players who were
free agents who hadn’t signed with teams yet. Once Kassel folded, it
meant there was one lesss team, meaning 10 more import spots not
available. You had the import players from Kassel who were free agents.
There were very little jobs for more players. There were more players
than there were jobs. Teams could have everything in their hands. Teams
were really dictating what players could be making, and where they could
play because there were less jobs available. Players were willing to
take a little bit less. A guy who had been around the league a while
took less money for his security, to make sure he got a job. He did what
he had to and left me out to dry.”
Then you stayed and went to another team, right?
“I went to a second-league team, the Landschut Cardinals. I was there 48 hours then made the decision to leave. When you know something’s a good fit, you know. When you know
something’s not a good fit you know. I was a little skeptical how things
were being done. I remained in contact with Karl the whole time. Talked
to him about maybe coming back. After I talked to him, my wife and I had little
conversation about what’s going to be the best thing for us and our future.
Based on the situation over there at the time, the best thing was to
come back. We knew what we were getting into, how we would be treated.
That played a large part of it.
“I skated three
times. That was it. It was a different – anybody that’s played hockey
over there would understand. It’s hard to explain. After playing in North America,
then going there, if you’re in the second league,
there’s places that are unbelievable setups, but there’s some that are
less desirable. The city was really nice. It’s just little things that
when I looked at what I truly wanted with my hockey career, what I
wanted with my future … we all came to the conclusion that the best
thing for my hockey, my future was to come back.”
What’s the DEL rule on “import” players?
“You’re only allowed, I think 11 imports on each team and can only dress 10 per game. It’s like anywhere – you have teams that are higher budget, teams that are lower budget. Mine was considered a lower-budget team , so … I think they had 8 or 9 imports. They don’t use all their imports. It saves them money and whatnot. The bigger budget teams – Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf – they’ll fill all the imports.”
How was Europe in general?
“I was there about 5 weeks of camp in Iserlohn. Went to Landschau for three
days. Then that was over, then for 10 days we traveled around – Paris, Germany for a couple days. We flew back to L.A. and was a pretty happy guy
when we touched.
My wife came over, we went 10 days and toured France and Germany. That was good to get away and not think about hockey. … I had a month off. I needed a break, to not think about hockey. We did a lot of cool things over there. It was the first time I ever got to travel through Europe.”
Just to clarify, your plan is to play one more year then “move on”?
“I can’t say. I’m going to have to make a decision next year once the season ends. I’m focused on this year and not looking past this year as a player. Right now, I’m just taking it one season at a time. I’m not thinking about next year. I’m only thinking of playing this year and winning a championship. I could end up playing five more years. This could be my last year. Who knows. Ask me in April or May after we win a championship.”