New Glasgow’s Derrick Walser has played in a number of different leagues and with a number of teams throughout the world, but after all his experiences he said playing in the Spengler Cup for Team Canada tops them all.
“Anytime you get a chance to represent Canada, especially on a world stage like this and playing on TV back home; it’s as good as it gets now and it’s the best for us,” he said. “Every player on this team looks forward to coming here, I look forward to coming here, my wife and kids look forward to coming here and it’s fantastic.”
Playing in the Spengler Cup for the third time, the second for Team Canada, Walser said having the tournament broadcast at home is a big deal for him. Having his parents follow him in his hockey career his entire life he likes that they can watch from home in New Glasgow without having to disrupt their routine.
He also said that playing for Canada and knowing the games are being broadcast here is something special.
“When you put it on (Team Canada jersey) you feel proud and you want to play at the top of your game and prove to everyone you can still play or show you are still playing,” said Walser. “Your parents and people back home are watching and you want to make them proud to be Canadian. It’s an honour to win this tournament and it’s not an easy tournament to win, but this year we’re trying and hope to make everyone proud.”
In the past, prior representing Canada at the Spengler Cup Walser wore the maple leaf in a few minor events, but he said they were not as big as this tournament.
“None of it compares to this,” he said. “This is as good as it’s got for me. I went to the world championships once to fill in for a couple games while guys were coming over from North America and that was quite an experience also, but this is by far my favourite one.”
This year with the NHL being in a labour lockout Walser is playing with a number of different players like Jason Spezza, Matt Duchene, John Tavares and Sam Gagner. He said that it’s outstanding how talented they are as hockey players as well as how great they are as people.
“These guys are phenomenal hockey players, but they’re also amazing people,” he said. “I mean half our team are probably NHL guys and half our team are Swiss guys and they treat us with just as much respect as if we were one of their teammates back home. Everyone is getting along, which is fantastic and it’s great to see them working as hard as they can and not looking down on guys.
“Having Ryan Smyth here has been fantastic for us because he’s just a down to earth guy and I have nothing else to say about him besides the fact that he’s been awesome.”
Playing with “Captain Canada” is something special for Walser. With Smyth having as much international experience representing Canada as he has, Walser said he is someone that is easily looked up to as a leader.
“He’s a true professional, comes to play every day and works hard,” said Walser. “He continues to put smiles on our faces. He doesn’t say much, but when he does it’s direct and you just trust what he says. He’s just a great guy, a true professional and he deserves the title.”
Although Walser is a member of Team Canada for the second straight year, he said it wasn’t certain that he would be playing. Back in September he was sidelined for 10 weeks with a back injury in Swiss league action. He returned to his Rapperswil-Jona team three weeks ago, showing now negative signs from the injury, which was the sign he needed to be on the roster for the Spengler Cup.
The 34-year-old also added that even though this was his first major injury, he’s not thinking about ending his career in hockey just yet.
“This is the first time in my career I’ve had a back injury and I missed ten weeks or any time like that,” he said. “I feel fantastic, I’m finally healthy again and I don’t plan on hanging my skates up anytime soon because I love it too much. It’s the only thing I like to do and the only way I’d hang my skates up is if I found something else in hockey like coaching or scouting.
“Once I got the green light I was clear I talked to the coaches and they reassured me that if I was healthy I was coming.”
Monday at 7 a.m. AST Team Canada is playing HC Davos in the championship game. The last time Canada was in the final was 2010 and the last tournament title was won in 2007.
“I think there is a little bit more desire to win this year because the guys are back in the spotlight,” he said. “A lot of these guys may only get one crack at this because when the lockout ends they won’t have a chance to come back over and play in this, so I think they’re looking win this and don’t want to disappoint.”