The Reign are officially in the market for a new number-one defenseman and captain.
David Walker (and his wife and unborn baby) will be leaving in August for the Schwennigen Wild Wings of the German Bundesliga. He talked about the new adventure, and why he’s committed to Europe for the first time in his pro career after contemplating retirement at age 32:
How did it come together between you and Schwennigen?
I planned at the end of the year that this was it, that I was done playing for a number of reasons. With time passing, every day that passed the direction I was hoping and wanting to take, the road got smaller. I had to make sure that I had something that I could fall back on work-wise, financially. I threw a shout out to my old agent in Europe, threw a feeler out to get my name out there, if there was any interest, any opportunities out there. To my surprise within a couple days I received four or five offers from teams in Europe. We looked at the options, the lack of options on this side. We couldn’t wait any longer. We had to make a decision. That was going to put us in the position we had, a fallback plan.
I know physically I still can play. It wasn’t a question of not wanting to play. It gets tiring at this level, but if I can play over there it’s two games a week, Friday and Sunday, no 3 in 3, the longest trip is 7 hours, there’s no 6-, 7-day road trips. There’s a lot of benefits to it. The money you make in Europe is more. With the dollar being lower, it’s just financially the best fit for us right now. I wasn’t planning on playing but I didn’t have any more time to sit around.
You went over last year to play for a team in the DEL. What’s different this time?
Last year, I went over on a tryout. I had a contract but it was a tryout contract. The team had one month to decide what they wanted to do. The contract was already in place, they’d keep paying the contract if they wanted to keep me. But they could sever the contract after a month. This year I’m going over with an actual contract signed. They can get rid of me after a month but have to give me the money. At our level, ECHL, you can sign on Monday and get released on Tuesday and that’s it. The contracts over there, you sign on a year contract (if you get cut) you still get bought out.
This team is in the Bundesliga, a level below the DEL, and you didn’t want to play at that level a year ago. What changed your mind?
I think it’s like anything. Even in the East Coast League, it’s the same league but different levels of teams. Some teams you get treated better at than others. There’s nicer rinks, nicer cities. The second league last year, I was in a nicer city but some issues were not going to make it an easy transition. With this team, it’s a team that’s in a nice part of Germany, the Black Forest. They’ve been to the finals the last 2 years. They’re financially secure – one of the wealthiest in the second league. They used to be in the DEL. They’re trying to get back to the top league. When you have a team that is financially secure … they’re going to do things the right way. I think last year I wasn’t 100 percent ready to go. With a kid on the way, you have to maybe suck up a few little things you had in the past. I wasn’t planning on playing, I’d mentally moved on to pursuing something else in the field of hockey. With the time that’s passed, it’s clear to me that’s not an option at this point. I couldn’t wait any longer for an actual yes or no. I had to move on, make sure I had something concrete. If I’d waited 2 or 3 months to find out that’s not an option, I’m kind of stuck.
Have you ruled out all your non-hockey options?
If something was to pop up from now to the time left in the field I wanted to pursue that is financially a smart decision, I’d have to look at everything.
Would you consider playing hockey in North America?
No, not really. I got offers in England, Denmark. It came to where I wanted to go, it was purely for a number of reasons. Being there (Germany) last year, I was a little more comfortable knowing how things operate and work. … my wife and I have friends playing over there within an hour’s train ride from us. We have friends that have had babies over there. Hearing their take on the experience, feeling comfortable how that process will go. Other than that, there weren’t any other options playing. I hadn’t heard from any teams over here. It was time for me to turn the page and move on.
How is the surgery progressing?
I had surgery on my thumb at the end of the year. It’s going really well, actually. Ahead of schedule. I’m out of the cast. I’m just doing my physio now. I’ve been doing five weeks of physio. A couple (more) weeks left and I should be 100 percent. Feeling great. Everything’s on track.