Saturday, December 01, 2007

Walz retires

Minnesota Wild veteran center Wes Walz, the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, announced his retirement Saturday morning at an Xcel Energy Center press conference.

“Wes stands for so many of the values we want our players to embody,” Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough said. “His level of preparation and passion was an example each day. On and off the ice he helped build the foundation of this organization. His legacy will extend far beyond today.”
– press release
Thus ends one of the strangest side stories of the season.

Walz started the year with the Wild, and played 11 games, but had a couple tough outings and requested a leave of absence to think over his future, something most interpreted as an admission he'd played his final NHL game. He was a terrific defensive player for Minnesota, who plucked him out of the Swiss league at age 30 and saw him blossom playing against the team's toughest opposition.

He retires at 37 with just 607 career games played, 438 of which were in Minnesota. Walz is a small guy to take on a defensive role, but became a Jacques Lemaire favourite given his speed and work ethic.

I remember running into a few of his buddies in a Vancouver hotel during the 2003 playoffs, some of the only people in town decked out in Wild jerseys. They'd made the drive from Calgary to cheer on their friend, whose unlikely NHL return reached its peak that year with a trip to the conference finals.

Underrated and popular, Walz's retirement will be buried among tomorrow's news items outside of Minnesota – but I think it's worth this small note.


At 4:27 PM, December 01, 2007, Blogger Andrew Bucholtz said...

Good to see this getting some attention. Walz was a terrific player: as a Canucks fan, his name makes me shudder with memories of the 2003 playoffs, when he was one of the key players in Minnesota's comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. He was amazing that whole playoffs, putting up 7 goals and 6 assists in 18 games in addition to his great defensive work. It's too bad he's walking away from the game: Minnesota will be far worse off without him.

At 5:28 PM, December 01, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Inside Minnesota, it's going to buried under six inches of snow.

At 7:14 PM, December 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

607 GP after the age of 30 is noteworthy in and of itself.

At 9:52 PM, December 01, 2007, Blogger Kirk said...

Walz will be remembered for a long time in MN as the gritty, hard-working player that everybody respects. He and Gaborik are the only remaining players from the original Wild lineup, and it's pretty impressive that he was a Selke finalist after his stint in Switzerland and re-casting by Lemaire into a defensive forward.


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