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SportDon't label Johnny Walker: Arizona State standout's unique style grows college hockey in the desert

18:50  07 december  2018
18:50  07 december  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

Longtime NHL referee Mick McGeough dies at 62

Longtime NHL referee Mick McGeough dies at 62 Mick McGeough died Friday in Regina, Saskatchewan. He had been on life support after suffering a stroke Sunday. He was 62. McGeough's son, Luke, tweeted, “We peacefully said goodbye to Mick McGeough” on Friday at 11:23 p.m.," canoe.com reported. Sad day when we lose one of our own. Mick was an old school ref that was fair with all players. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family as well as his extended Hockey family. https://t.

When asked to describe Arizona State forward Johnny Walker in one word, Sun Devils captain Brinson Pasichnuk took a few moments before Although this season has the feel of a breakout for the Sun Devils, who play as an NCAA independent in hockey , Walker and his teammates know they’re

The Arizona State Sun Devils ice hockey team is the second of only two NCAA Division I ice hockey programs in the United States Sun Belt (the other being Alabama–Huntsville).

Don't label Johnny Walker: Arizona State standout's unique style grows college hockey in the desert © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

Shortly after scoring the game-winning goal to defeat then-No. 6 Penn State, Johnny Walker dropped down to a sitting position onto the ice, a hockey pose uncharacteristic even for goal celebrations. Using his stick as a paddle, he pretended to row a boat.

Not only did Walker give his Arizona State Sun Devils an upset victory over the Nittany Lions, but he offered up his submission for best goal celebration of the year.

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The celebration was more than just Walker’s way of enjoying his winning goal. It was the embodiment of him as a player.

The sophomore forward is more than just a piece of the winning puzzle for ASU hockey — which has been ranked as high as No. 16, according to USCHO.com. Walker, a Phoenix native, is becoming the face of a southwestern hockey program that some don’t even know exists. Arizona State is the only Pac-12 school with a Division I team, a geographic polar compared to college hockey hotbeds like Massachusetts and Minnesota, but Walker's on-ice flair is helping to elevate the program on the national stage.

He is popular among Arizona State's fans and his teammates, known as someone who likes to have fun on the ice and rile up opponents before leaving them in the dust as he scores. That formula has proven especially successful this season for Walker, who holds a share of the NCAA goals lead and has been consistently among the nation's top scorers.

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Minnesota State University, 406. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the five NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the AHCA and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

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Don't label Johnny Walker: Arizona State standout's unique style grows college hockey in the desert © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited johnny-walker-2-120618-ftr.jpg

Walker's fun-loving persona is something he's decided to embrace. He enjoys achieving his goals, no pun intended, so why not let that show?

“I think that sometimes a lot of people can make (hockey) more serious than it should be,” Walker told Sporting News. “At the end of the day, you play the game to have fun and that’s why you started. Some people get caught up in playing to move to the next level. My goal was to play college hockey when I was younger. I finally made it and it’s time to have some fun with it. Every day I get to play is a little gravy on top, a little extra.”

Walker’s enthusiasm for the game may not make him the most well-liked by the opposition, especially as he's accumulated 65 penalty minutes in two seasons. It makes sense, then, that the NHL player who Walker models his game after is Brad Marchand, who has built a reputation as a love-him-or-hate-him talent for the Bruins.

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College hockey offers a unique environment that promotes the very best player development. When you skate out onto the ice for the first time on a Friday night in front of a packed house, and you hear the band playing the fight song, it' s the best feeling in the world.

Today, Johnnie Walker is the biggest whisky brand in the world and its slogan is has been adopted and embraced everywhere, as a rallying cry for progress, as encouragement in adversity, as a joyful expression of optimism and as the best piece of advice you’re ever likely to hear.

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“He is kind of an undersized guy that competes really hard and doesn’t back down to anyone and still finds a way to contribute offensively too,” Walker said about Marchand. “He is exactly what I try to be.”

Tempe, Ariz., the home to Arizona State University roughly 10 miles outside Phoenix, goes against everything you think about hockey.

Oceanside Ice Arena, the Sun Devils’ home arena, is ill-fitted considering there is no ocean in the state, let alone beside the venue (the name was actually given so as to fit with the West Coast theme of the businesses around the arena).

The entire premise of the sport revolves around ice, yet Phoenix is the warmest major U.S. city on average and sees snow once in a blue moon.

So it might come as a surprise that the Sun Devils not only have an NCAA hockey team, but a very good one at that, with wins over traditional powers like Penn State, Michigan State and Harvard this season playing as an independent.

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College hockey offers a unique environment that promotes the very best player development. When you skate out onto the ice for the first time on a Friday night in front of a packed house, and you hear the band playing the fight song, it' s the best feeling in the world.

I had a fantastic college hockey experience at Minnesota State and thanks to my coaches and support staff, I learned the value of hard work, teamwork and life skills. I think my mom is still happier that I’m a Harvard graduate than I’m playing in the NHL, to be honest.

ASU has a recruiting weapon at its disposal that is seldom found at other schools with Division I team: the very sunny, warm-weather climate that makes it an outlier in college hockey. Walker recognizes the luxury this provides and attributes it to why playing hockey in his home state is appealing. It especially gives a new perspective for Canadian kids who experienced plenty of snow growing up.

Don't label Johnny Walker: Arizona State standout's unique style grows college hockey in the desert © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited johnny-walker-3-120618-ftr.jpg

“You are not going to go anywhere else in the country, go to the rink in flip flops and then compete on Friday and Saturday night with top ten teams in the country,” Walker said.

In the past, desert dwellers only had the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL — who play in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale — as a way of getting their hockey fix.

The emergence of the Sun Devils in the NCAA landscape has given fans of the sport an alternative to the pros.

When Walker was growing up in Arizona, college hockey was foreign to the area.

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“The only college hockey game I ever saw was when I went and played in a tournament in North Dakota, it was on TV,” Walker said. “Just for college hockey to be in the Valley and for kids to see more like a culture step than the Coyotes.”

Perhaps his status as a homegrown star is why Walker has made an effort to give back to the Arizona hockey community and is revered when he shows up to his brother’s youth hockey games.

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College Hockey Inc. ©. Arizona State . Head Coach: Greg Powers. Associate Head Coach: Mike Field. Assistant Coach: Alex Hicks. Hockey Office: (480) 965-3482 E-Mail: [email protected]

I had a fantastic college hockey experience at Minnesota State and thanks to my coaches and support staff, I learned the value of hard work, teamwork and life skills. I think my mom is still happier that I’m a Harvard graduate than I’m playing in the NHL, to be honest.

“I know (Walker) has been doing a lot of community service with the local youth teams and he has got a little brother that plays on the junior Coyotes,” teammate Jacob Wilson said. “He is usually going out Sundays to watch his brother play, so I think that’s pretty cool of him to show his face around there. The kids know who he is.”

Arizona’s stock has been rising in the sport, and Walker seems to be the next big face in the state’s hockey scene, following the lead of Scottsdale native and two-time NHL All-Star Auston Matthews, the first selection in the 2016 draft. Walker and Matthews played on summer West Coast selects and other summer league teams together, offering a glimpse at hockey's future in the state of Arizona from a young age.

Part of the reason why ASU has had a successful season is its clubhouse culture, which Walker has actively contributed to. He keeps things loose and fun, but knows how to step up in a leadership role.

“He’s not afraid to really call guys out and tell them we need more from them,” Wilson said. “He definitely helps us in the locker room.”

If anyone on the Sun Devils knows Walker as a person, it’s Wilson. The two roomed together as freshmen and chose to live together again.

“He works hard on the ice and I enjoy having him as a roommate,” Wilson said. “He’s always fun and he’s always got something to say so it’s never a dull moment with Johnny Walker, that’s for sure.”

Walker’s post-college plans are centered around playing in the NHL, following in the footsteps of Matthews and a select few other Phoenix residents in the professional ranks. However, just like his on-ice skillset, he’s versatile and wants to put the business law degree he plans to obtain from ASU to good use. Regardless of what he opts to do, hockey seems to be a big part of the future.

“At some point I am going to have to get a real job, whether it is right out of college or if I’m lucky enough to play professional hockey for a little bit,” Walker said. “I think I would want to take it and be something on the sports agency side, whether it’s an agent or something related to hockey and stay in the sport as long as I can.”

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