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After Injuries Took First 33 Games, Zach Walker Eager to Impress

By Becky Olsen, 02/10/15, 8:00AM EST


Walker Played His First Game with the NTDP on Jan. 24.

Photo by Tom Sorensen.

After missing the first 33 games this season with a lower body injury, U.S. National Under-17 Team forward Zach Walker finally returned to the ice on Jan. 24 against the Bloomington Thunder.

“When I walked in the doors, looked at my stall and saw my jersey hanging, knowing that I can finally throw it on, it was exhilarating,” he said. “It’s a different kind of joy. I have been waiting for this moment for way too long. It was finally time, and I wanted to do my best.”

The wait was frustrating at times for Walker, who is from Boise, Idaho. But he made a point to keep a positive attitude as he cheered his teammates on.

“Getting to throw on the jersey and play for the first time was awesome,” Walker said. “During warm ups, I had a smile on my face.”

After fighting off some nerves on his first shift, Walker said he quickly settled in and got to work.

One of the challenges of missing so much time was staying in shape. Walker said he maintained his fitness by working with National Team Development Program skating coach Carrie Keil, trainer Andy Baker as well as Darryl Nelson, the program’s strength and conditioning coach.

“I like to attribute the program for helping me get back so quickly,” Walker said. “Skating is different, as it takes a while to get back into stride. It’s like riding a bike — once you learn, it will come back quickly.”

The most difficult time for Walker was watching his teammates during the first two international teammates and knowing he couldn’t help them out. The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge this past November in Ontario was particularly difficult.

“During the Challenge championship game [against Russia], I sat behind the goal the whole game just looking for the bounces,” he said. “I couldn’t stop shaking my leg. It was very emotional when we lost. Even though I wasn’t on the ice, you are still emotionally attached to the team.”

Walker did get to join his teammates for a chance at redemption against Russia this past week at the 2015 Five Nations Tournament in Dmitrov, Russia. However, the hosts blanked Team USA 6-0. It was the U17s only blemish en route to a second-place finish.

Walker started playing hockey when he was just 5 years old.

“I started playing because we had this family reunion and we went public skating at the local rink,” he said. “My parents told me I really liked it and had a big smile on my face. They decided to put me into skating lessons, and then skating lessons excelled into hockey.

“The beginning was just the skating. I always enjoyed the skating part, and I always wanted to go fast. I like the speed of the game. In football, there are starts and stops. In hockey, it is a constant go, go, go. You can have fun and work hard.”

Walker credits his local coaches in helping him develop the love and passion for the game but also for recognizing his talents.

“Once I got into it, some local coaches noticed I wasn’t playing at the local skill level,” he said. “My coach, Mike Hanson, really helped me out of Idaho. He played for the Sarnia Sting and he was able to coach me for four years. He helped me move on to Colorado, where I was able to reach out to bigger and better things. I was there for two years before coming to Ann Arbor.”

The other individual who helped spark Walker’s love of the game is his second cousin John Shockey, who spent eight seasons playing professional hockey in various leagues.

“When he played for the Las Vegas Wranglers and the San Diego Gulls, I remember he would come to our house,” Walker said. “I would always be waiting with a stick and net and would be like, ‘Johnny come play with me.’ I would always watch his videos and his fights. He sparked my love for the game and gave me an extra role model to look up to. He always told me to keep playing and not give up.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Past Features

Under-17 Team News

#40 Zach Walker (Photo by Dave Reginek)

Zach's Favorites

Favorite U.S. Player
T.J. Oshie

Favorite Sport (Outside of Hockey)

Favorite Movie
Step Brothers

Favorite TV Show
Big Bang Theory

Favorite Actor
Adam Sandler

Favorite Actress
Mila Kunis

Favorite Music
Luke Bryan, Nickelback

Favorite Activities Away from Rink
Drawing, Lacrosse, Going for Walks