Before every hockey game he plays, Jake Walman looks up to the sky and says something brief to his Uncle Doug.
"He was a huge inspiration, and he was always there for me," Walman told stlouisblues.com. "I'm always thinking about him."
In March of last year, Doug Wilkie was feeling dizzy in the middle of the night and had a couple of falls at his home in Toronto. After several tests at the hospital to determine what was wrong, doctors diagnosed Wilkie with brain cancer in early April.
On April 30 - less than a month after his diagnosis - Wilkie had passed away.
"Out of all my relatives in Toronto, Uncle Doug was the one that I leaned on the most for everything," Walman said. "He was someone, other than my dad, that I could talk to about pretty much anything going on in my life. He always had the right thing to say, he always had a positive attitude on everything."
Walman referenced his personal journey to the NHL as a great example of how Wilkie helped keep him going. Walman was drafted in the third round back in 2014 but waited a long time for his chance to play in the NHL. He made his debut in the League during the 2019-20 season - and Wilkie was watching that game from home - but it wasn't until this season that Walman got a legitimate chance to stick around and play some games. With his nephew visibly frustrated during the journey, Wilkie would pull Walman aside at family dinners or holiday get-togethers and remind him that good things often come to those who wait, and that his chance would come when he was ready.
"He always knew I would make it," Walman said. "He was a big supporter of me. Anytime I went through adversity or was having a tough time, he'd say 'Meet it, Greet it, Defeat it.' That was his motto. Now I use it, and anytime there's adversity, I get through it."
As the Blues celebrate the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative during their two-game series with the Vegas Golden Knights, Walman is adding his Uncle Doug's name to his hockey sticks.
"Cancer affects pretty much everybody in some way or another, but now over the last year, Hockey Fights Cancer carries a deeper meaning to me for sure," Walman said. "I've never written anyone's name on my stick before, but I think my Uncle Doug is a good name to start with - I love him. Looking down, seeing his name, it will give me motivation and tell me to just keep going."