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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Joe Hockey

Australia ambassador to U.S. discusses learning about sport, how Capitals forward Walker has represented country

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs each Tuesday throughout the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.

The latest edition features Joe Hockey, Australia's ambassador to the United States.

People call him Mr. Hockey.

No, he's not Gordie Howe. He's Joe Hockey, Australia's ambassador to the United States, so Ambassador Hockey and Mr. Ambassador also work.

This Mr. Hockey doesn't know much about Gordie Howe, including that his nickname was Mr. Hockey.

"I'm a newcomer to hockey," he said.

But Joe Hockey, 52, has become more familiar with the sport since moving to Washington with his wife, Melissa, and their three children to take his post as ambassador on Jan. 29, 2016. He attended a few Washington Capitals games before Sydney native Nathan Walker made his debut with them against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 7, making him the first Australian to play in the NHL.

Hockey was traveling, so he was unable to make it to Capital One Arena to see Walker play that night, but he has since seen him play live once.

"We'll be going plenty of times," he said.

Although the surname Hockey might sound unusual in Canada and the United States, he said in it's not as uncommon in Australia, pointing to painter Patrick Hockey (no relation) as another example.

Joe Hockey's grandfather, Joseph Hokeidonian was born in Aleppo, Syria. His father, Richard, joined the British army in Palestine during World War II and while in the army he decided to shorten Hokeidonian, an Armenian name, to Hockey to Anglicize it before the family migrated to Australia in 1948.

"And thank goodness he did shorten it, because when I ran for office in politics it would have been pretty hard to [fit] Hokeidonian on the posters," he joked.

Video: MTL@WSH: First NHL Aussie Walker scores in debut

Hockey represented North Sydney as a member of Parliament for 17 years and was treasurer of Australia from 2013-15. That job called for him to give "a number of speeches" in Canada, where his name always attracted attention.

"The first time I went back to Canada to give a speech to 500 people in Toronto, I opened up by saying it was my second trip to Canada and I must have made a good impression on my first trip because I just saw the Hockey Hall of Fame," he said.

Hockey said when he first registered his website, joehockey.com, in 1996, a hockey rink in Canada offered him $100,000 for the URL.

"In one sense, I should have taken the money, but I still have it today," Hockey said. "I'm about to relaunch it."

Here are Five Questions with … Joe Hockey:

 

Did you know much about Nathan Walker and ice hockey before you got to Washington?

"No. My youngest son, [8-year-old] Iggy, Ignatius, he saw hockey on YouTube back in Australia and he got quite excited about it. On our back deck, he'd put on his sister's Rollerblades and got a cricket bat and a tennis ball and he started to teach himself how to skate. When we got here, he was determined to learn how to ice skate because he had never seen snow before or been ice skating. Then he got here and it was a whole new world. I took my two sons to a Caps game and we all bought Caps jerseys and they didn't want to [charge] my credit card because they didn't believe there was a Joe Hockey. That was quite funny. We sat there and watched and we were like, 'Wow.' And Iggy was quite into it. He got into training at [Kettler Capitals Iceplex] and he's on the mites [team]. He's in the Kettler program, he's playing at Chevy Chase [Maryland], he's skating every day and he's right into it. He came to meet Nathan Walker when Nathan came to the embassy."

 

Did you play any sports when you were growing up?

"I played rugby, which is sort of ice hockey without the puck. It's a little more physical than ice hockey. And I played cricket, tennis and golf. The only sport I've never played is ice hockey."

 

What have you thought of the way Walker has represented your country?

"I don't know how to translate it into American-speak, but I really like the cut of his jib. He just seems like a really decent young man. He grew up in a country where ice hockey barely rates mention. It's like "Cool Runnings," that movie about the Jamaican bobsled team. It's not much different. He grew up in a part of Sydney that is basically sun and beaches and rugby leagues and football. So he ends up going to the Czech Republic, developing his skills and went to the [NHL]. There's only 20 ice rinks in the whole of Australia and a lot of those are very social. … It's one thing to come up through the ranks in a hotly contested environment, but for a team sport where you are pretty much by yourself it really is a remarkable achievement at the far end of the world. That's one of the reasons why we're so proud of him."

 

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Walker has a lot of qualities for which Australians are known. Do you see that in him?

"Yeah. He's fearless and the characteristics are, it's not about the size of the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog, right? I'm confident that he's got all the skills necessary to be able to be exceptional. I have no doubt about that. He's very fast. I've seen him play once and he's sharp and he's not afraid given he's such a small player [5-foot-9, 186 pounds]."

 

How many Capitals games have you attended?

"At least five, all in the last 12 months. I went out to the game [against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 6] with the [U.S] Deputy Secretary of State [John Sullivan]. I had to go to the will call window to get my tickets. I had to show them my [identification] -- Joe Hockey. They looked at me and they said, 'This can't be right.' I had to have the deputy secretary of state verify it was really me. We were all excited that Nathan was going to play, but he didn't (Walker was a healthy scratch). We had terrific seats that really gave me a whole new angle on the sport because I was at ice level. I was stunned at the speed and I found myself standing up, being a rugby player, as they were coming straight at me at high speed. I thought maybe standing up and dropping my shoulder was too much."

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