VANCOUVER - Abbotsford Heat president Ryan Walter had a good chuckle this week when asked what role he played in having oldest son Ben join the American Hockey League team as a veteran centre.
“That's actually a great story because Ben was signed before I was,” Walter said. “So I can take no credit at all.”
In fact, when Ryan was presented the opportunity to run the Heat, it was dad asking son if he minded the old man being around. Obviously it was no problem then and it still isn't today. The Walters are both in their second seasons with the Heat.
“It was kind of a funny situation,” explained Ben, 28, who has been wearing an 'A' this season. “I signed with Calgary and then he came to me with his opportunity and we had a good talk about it. He wanted to know what I thought and if it was okay. I thought it was a good situation for both of us.
“We don't see each other too much. I'll talk to him after games but, mostly, he's doing his thing and I'm doing my thing on the other side of the rink. It's been fun being able to play close to home and still chase the dream I have in front of me.”
Ben was born in Montreal when Ryan played for the Canadiens and then moved to White Rock in 1991 when Ryan became a Canuck. Ben was seven at the time and he used to run around Pacific Coliseum with his buddy Jeff Tambellini. They would sometimes skate after Canuck practices while learning the art of being rink rats.
“Jeff and I kind of grew up together that way,” said Ben Walter. “There were some other kids around but we were the same age so we did things together. We ended up playing against each other in minor hockey throughout our careers but later we played together in the Islanders organization. We've always kind of stayed in touch.”
Walter and the Heat are back home this week to face the Toronto Marlies in games Thursday and Friday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Faceoff time both nights is 7 p.m. The Heat are 4-1-2 and sit second in the AHL's North Division, one point behind Cody Hodgson and the Rochester Americans.
Walter is in the final season of a two-year, two-way contract with the Flames and admits the lockout isn't really helping him pursue his NHL dream. He's played just 24 career games up top with the Bruins, Islanders and Devils. He has one goal, scored against Tampa Bay in the 2007-08 season.
All he can do now is play hard and hope the Flames take note. Walter has seven points in six games.
“I think that's how most us are looking at it,” he said. “Everyone from Calgary was here watching us in training camp and there's going to be a lot more exposure for us than there might be if the NHL was going on. For someone in my situation, I just have to take care of myself, play well and do things to have some people look at me and maybe give me a shot if things start up again.”
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