The 23-year-old NHL rookie made his debut for the Washington Capitals on Sunday, scoring in the second period as his team went on to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-1. Walkers family watched on from the crowd as he made a historic debut, becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL and topping this off by also becoming the first to score.
Nathan Walker was born in Cardiff, Wales, but grew up in Australia after emigrating there with his family when he was 2 years old. It was in his hometown of Sydney where he first played hockey at the age of 6 after being exposed to the sport thanks to his older brother Ryan. By the age of 13 he had moved to the Czech Republic to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL.
After years of hard work, including training twice a day in the top Czech league with HC Vitkovice, Nathans hard work paid off when he became the first Australian to be drafted by a NHL team in 2014 with the Washington Capitals. He hadn’t achieved his dream just yet as it took 3 more years playing for their affiliate team in the AHL, the Hershey Bears, before he was given his golden opportunity.
Wearing the number 79 on the night, Nathan was well received by the crowd in the Capital One Arena who were keen to applaud his achievement. He rewarded them with a goal, which he deflected in with his right leg, going on to overshadow another accomplishment on the night by teammate Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s four goals meant he became only the fourth player in NHL history to open the season with back to back hat tricks.
Speaking after the game to reporters, Nathan had this to say about his debut:
“It was pretty special, it was really fun. You know first couple of shifts I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I think I was just skating around, but I had a lot of fun out there.”