Scott Walker, former NHL player from Cambridge, said he always dreamed of going to the Olympics. His wish will soon come true as Pyeongchang 2018 creeps closer.
"Growing up in Canada, making the NHL was always a dream, but equally or more of a dream was going to the Olympics," Walker told CBC News. He played 17 seasons in the NHL.
But instead of putting on a jersey and taking the ice, Walker will be opting for a suit and a spot behind the bench as an assistant coach for the men's hockey team.
He said going as a coach is the second best thing.
'A big honour'
Walker is one of a small number of people from Waterloo region who will be taking part in the Winter Olympics this year.
"Obviously you'd love to go and be an athlete, but that's not going to happen … I don't think I can get that done anymore," said the 44-year-old who retired from the NHL in 2010.
"Coaching is still a big thrill and a big honour."
In his time as a professional hockey player, he was first drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1993, where he played until he was selected by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 expansion draft. He also spent time with the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.
In 829 professional games, Walker tallied 397 points with 151 goals, 246 assists and totalled 1,162 penalty minutes.
Relationship with Hockey Canada
The former right-wing player also represented Canada at three world championships.
Walker's relationship with Hockey Canada continued after he retired, where he worked as an assistant coach with Canada's national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championships in 2012 and 2015. He struck gold in 2015 with a team that featured Connor McDavid and Jonathan Drouin, and bronze in 2012.
Walker now works with the Vancouver Canucks as a player development consultant. It is in his current role where he first worked with Willie Desjardins. Desjardins coached the Canucks for three seasons between 2014 and 2017 and will be the head coach of this year's Olympic team.
"He is such a great person, one of the kinds of people you want to call a friend." Walker said. "He'll do anything for you, he'll do anything for the players and the players just love him."
Walker has also been reunited with future hall-of-fame goaltender and two-time Olympic gold medallist Martin Brodeur, who accepted a role as the assistant general manager for the team. Walker said it's great to be part of a team with two "spectacular" people who have landed in the hall of fame.
NHL ban opened doors
Despite some fans' disappointment that NHL players have been barred from participating in the games, Walker said Hockey Canada has put together a great team, in the office, behind the bench and on the ice.
"I think they are going to make Canadians proud," he said of the 25-man roster that will represent the nation.
"Some of the stories and journeys these guys have been on are really going to touch a lot of people's hearts in Canada and a lot of young hockey players are going to be thrilled to watch them."
But it's not just the players who get to have an opportunity because of the NHL ban, it's also the coaches.
If the likes of Sidney Crosby and Jonathon Toews were on this year's roster, Walker said he likely wouldn't be behind the bench.
"Those are some of greatest players in the world and the history of the sport, so it would always be fun to coach them," he said. "But let's not kid ourselves. If those guys are going, we aren't the coaches."
The Olympic roster features former NHL and AHL players and some who play in European professional leagues. While their current jobs may be different than those of rosters' past, the goal remains the same.
"When you put on the Canada jersey and go out to play hockey, our expectation is a gold medal," said Walker.
"That's the way it always has been and always will be. And that's what is so great about being Canadian."