Catching up with former Siskins coach Steve Walker
Steve Walker is the most accomplished hockey player to come from the hockey beds of Clearview Township.
He learned to play the game at the Creemore Arena, wore the green and gold of the Stayner Siskins, played Junior hockey in Collingwood, Barrie and Owen Sound before moving on to a professional hockey career that saw him captain the IHL Detroit Vipers and enjoy a storied career playing for the Berlin Polar Bears scoring 213 goals and 379 assists in 593 games played there over 11 seasons, nine as captain. His number 27 was retired on Boxing Day 2014 and hangs from the rafters in the Berlin Arena.
In January 2013, Walker became the head coach of the Stayner Siskins, leaving the team before the start of this season to accept an assistant coach position with Adler Mannheim of the German Hockey League.
Mannheim is a city of 295,000 people and situated in the southwest part of the country.
Walker’s signing was big news and made headlines in Germany.
Mannheim, 10-7-2, is currently in first place.
Walker, who resides in our township during the off-season, has agreed to keep Echo readers informed of his club’s progress this season. He answered a few questions I directed at him by e-mail.
Early in the season, I believe your team got off to a rough start. Now you are in first place. What happened?
We did get off to a slow start. The main reason was scoring or lack there of. We couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. Even out shooting opponents 50-25 we were losing those games; recently, we have been able to find more scoring which has led to where we are now.
What’s the difference between coaching and playing there?
The biggest difference between playing and coaching here for me is preparation. In my playing days, I looked after one person and made sure that I was ready to play. Now as a coach, I’m responsible for 24 players making sure they are ready to go. Obviously, that adds hours to my workload.
How is it going as a coach at a much higher rank (than Junior C hockey in Canada)?
To be honest the coaching of the team isn’t much different. You prepare the players for what to expect in the game and make adjustments during the game. The speed and execution of the players is the biggest difference. We have guys with almost 1000 NHL games here so they are motivated and are great leaders on and off the ice. They understand this is their livelihood so they are committed to the team’s success.
I know your entire life has prepared you to be a coach. Just curious if your years at the helm in Stayner was beneficial?
Coaching in Stayner helped prepare me for this for sure. Speaking to a lot of other coaches, I can honestly say it’s (Junior C) probably the hardest league to coach in. In Junior C, your team is made up of players who want to get to the next level; players that have been at the next level and are just playing because they love the game while they are in school or working a full time job; and the last part of your team is made up of players that this is their NHL. They are happy with where they are at and are content at staying there. The percent of each group changes Jr B, Tier II (Junior A) and in the OHL.
Walker, who still acts as a special adviser to the Siskins, is delighted that the Stayner team won two games last week and have now won their last five in a row.
Saturday’s game at the Creemore rink against the Orillia Terriers was a doozy. Stayner fell by three goals at the end of the first period, Siskins Kyle Sickinger got one in the second, and in the third Stayner netted two with only two and a half minutes to play. Kyle Lafreniere scored when they pulled their goalie at 17:29 and just over a minute later Sean Healy tied it forcing overtime. Ricky Darrell netted the winner 1:02 played in the extra frame.
The Thursday night before, Stayner doubled Penetang 8-4. Lucas Jeffery and Darrell led the charge with two goals each. Single tallies were credited to Kort Weir, Lafreniere, Jackson Clarke and Jordan Taylor.
Darrell, by the way, was named the league’s player of the month for October. He and Jeffery were named to the all-star team, which matches the Georgian-Mid Ontario Junior C all-stars against the Western League all-stars Nov. 21 in Mitchell. Named from the Siskins to the Prospect team were rookies Matt Hayward, Ike Swanton and Taylor.
Stayner plays the first-place Alliston Hornets this Thursday on home ice and then the night play in Alliston on Friday. Sunday the club hosts Schomberg beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Finally, on another note, congratulations are in order for Avening’s Anna Carruthers who placed 11th at the OFSSA Midget girls cross country race held at Duntroon Highlands recently. Carruthers is a two-sport athlete, excelling at skiing as well.