WASHINGTON — Before Saturday, Australia wasn’t known for its hockey. Exactly zero Aussies had ever played hockey at its highest level, with none appearing in the NHL.
But thanks to Washington Capitals rookie left winger Nathan Walker, that storyline changed, and it would seem that the entire country was there in spirit to support his promotion to the big leagues.
Every notable international sports star in the last two decades was included in a video that was played in the Capital One Arena before he took the ice. Included in that star-studded lineup was Grant Balfour, Jason Day, Matthew Dellavedova, Adam Scott, Andrew Bogut and former Redskins punter Sav Rocca.
Key Takeaways: the entire country of Australia (as noted by Aron Baynes) and the entire Denver Broncos (as noted by Adam Gotsis) are behind Walker. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
So how does an Aussie get inspired to play hockey? Walker was technically born in Great Britain but moved to Australia when he was 2 years old. Since hockey broadcasts (and demand) was low as a child, he drew his inspiration from family members who played a high level, as well as movies like The Mighty Ducks.
Of course, he did.
Walker was drafted 89th overall by the Caps in 2014. He worked his way up through the minor leagues and made his home debut as the left winger on the fourth line. Fourth wingers don’t traditionally get much playing time, but they do when the Caps jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game.
He ended up playing long enough on Saturday to take two shots on goal, and one of those went in for his first professional goal:
Walker’s family even made the trip in, just to see his debut:
Give the Capitals credit: they went out of their way to set up a Disney-level storyline, and Walker delivered the Hollywood ending.
On Sunday, Walker got a personal phone call from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, wishing him good luck as he carries the weight of a continent on his back in the NHL:
Without question, this is the best part of the exchange:
Turnbull: “Yeah, and score a goal.”
Walker: “Yeah. I used my butt to get it in.”
Turnbull: “Fair enough.
Fair enough, indeed. The Capitals’ fan base just grew by a whole nation down under.