January 29, 2023

Featured Hockey Legend: Ryan Walter

Ryan Walter was a born leader.

Born in New Westminster, BC, Ryan, one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, played his minor hockey in Burnaby, British Columbia, before going on to play junior in Langley and Kamloops. However it wasn't until he moved to the WHL's Seattle Breakers that Ryan became noticed by NHL scouts. He scored 54 goals and 125 points and he captained Canada at the 1978 World Junior Hockey Championships.

His outstanding play in the WHL prompted the Washington Capitals to select him second overall in the 1978 Amateur Draft. A year later, he was named team captain, the youngest captain in NHL history at that time.

Walter described his style of hockey:

"I was a bit adaptable I think over 15 seasons In the beginning, I think it was I was pretty aggressive and a Rick Tocchet type of player that scored goals and had to sort of play a very rounded game. I played center and wing in those early years.

"Coming into Montreal, early in my time there, I was playing with Guy Lafleur and Doug Wickenheiser and so it was more of an offensive bent obviously. And then, about half way through my time there, I ended up being a bit more of a defensive specialist and that continued through Vancouver."

Walter was a deceptively strong person, with leg power and balance being the trademark of his skating. He was a tenacious checker who was able to drive through his checks. He also possessed a great understanding of the game, and was able to read the play and anticipate his check's moves ahead of time. His vision enabled him to position himself perfectly to break up plays. Never possessing the quick release needed to become a top shooter, Walter was an opportunistic scorer who scored 264 goals in 1003 NHL games.

Walter enjoyed his best NHL season with the Capitals in 1981-82 when he set career-highs in all offensive categories with 38 goals, 49 assists and 87 points. He would be named as the Caps MVP, top player and fan favorite. However playing in Washington was like playing on the moon - you didn't get noticed there no matter how good you are, at least in those days. Ryan was one of the NHL's best kept secrets.

The Montreal Canadiens knew about him however and on September 9th, 1982 traded for him in a blockbuster deal. The Habs sent a young Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin to Washington for Walter and Rick Green. While Walter and Green performed well for Montreal, the trade would be dubbed by many in the Montreal media as the worse trade the Habs ever made as Rod Langway went on to become a standout on defense, twice winning the Norris Trophy.

Ryan spent nine seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, and won his first and only Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1985-86. He helped the Canadiens reach the Cup Finals again in 1988-89.

When Walter left Montreal he finished out his career in his home province playing two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Walter, a devote Christian, was named the Bud Light/NHL Man of the Year in 1991-92 when he was also the Canucks' nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy and an alternate captain for the Canucks.

When Ryan left the NHL after the 1992-93 season, he had seven 20-goal seasons over his career and finished his playing days with 264 goals, 382 assists and 646 points in 1,003 regular season games. He also had 16 goals and 51 points in 113 playoff contests.

Walter has been busy experiencing many new facets of life since retiring as a hockey player. A devout Christian, Walter has been a leading figure for World Vision, Athletes for Kids and Hockey Ministries International as well as many Christian hockey camps. He authored three books: Off the Bench and Into the Game: Eight Success Strategies from Professional SportSimply the Best: Insights and Strategies: From Great Hockey Coaches, and Leading Strategies for Winning Teams. He became a motivational speaker, a corporate leadership coach, and dabbled in broadcasting. He served as a technical advisor for the Kurt Russell's Hollywood blockbuster Miracle, making a cameo appearance as the referee. He also became an board game entrepreneur with his critically acclaimed Trade Deadline Hockey.

1 comment:

Captain Canuck said...

I always thought he got jobbed when Team Canada let him go after winning the Gold. That program isn't what it used to be...
Good player though!