Brenden Walker heads up ice last night. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Getting off the Saskatoon Blades bus in the depths of the Keystone Centre, Brenden Walker felt an odd sensation as he hauled his gear into the visitors’ dressing room.
Wednesday’s game was his first at Westman Place since the 20-year-old forward from Ste. Anne was traded by the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Blades in the off-season.
"It was so weird and just pulling into Brandon, it just didn’t feel right," said Walker, who has been back to the Wheat City since the trade, but not to the arena. "But you know what, I’ve got to get used to it. It’s going to be a long year and we play the Wheat Kings a lot more times."
The trade, which came during the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, was all about the present for the Blades and all about the future for the Wheat Kings. Saskatoon got a skilled forward, who produced 81 points in 68 games last season, to bolster its Memorial Cup host team, while Brandon got a pair of second-round picks, a third-rounder and the right to swap first-rounders with the Blades in 2014.
It was a gut-wrenching move for Walker, who had spent his entire three-year WHL career with the Wheat Kings to that point, but he said the way he has been welcomed into the Blades dressing room has softened the blow.
"They’re very welcoming," Walker said. "They treat me very good; they’re a very good organization. I couldn’t ask for a better place to get traded to, but I give all the respect to the Wheat Kings for letting me get this opportunity and putting me in a good place, thanks to (Wheat Kings general manager) Kelly McCrimmon."
The best opportunity is yet to come, as Walker gets another chance at the Memorial Cup after losing in the final as a member of the Wheat Kings in 2010. While Saskatoon is already buzzing, with an upcoming Sportsnet reality show to be centred around the Blades’ preparations for the event, Walker prefers to keep his attention on the here and now.
"It’s a long year ahead of us, so we’ve just gotta kinda focus on every game that we play and not even worry about the Mem Cup yet," he said. "For sure we’re getting ready for it, but we’ve got to keep focused."
The doesn’t mean it has to be all hockey all the time. An avid outdoorsman, Walker has found another fringe benefit to moving to Saskatoon — taking his new teammates out hunting.
"They’ve been really enjoying that and just getting to be together and get some good bonding going on," he grinned. "You couldn’t ask for a better place to be hunting, too. Saskatoon’s amazing for that."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 27, 2012