Forgive Scott Walker
if being the center of attention during the Carolina Hurricanes
’ series with the Boston Bruins
didn’t seem to impress him.
Walker and his wife, Julie, had much bigger concerns at the time. Julie Walker was diagnosed with cervical cancer during the series.
The good news is the condition is treatable and Julie is expected to make a complete recovery.
"It was a challenge the first couple days, but we’re slowly getting back to normal," the Carolina forward said Saturday. "It was a little more detailed than they (doctors) first anticipated, so that was hard. Now it’s getting to the point where we have talked to all the doctors and we’ll move forward.
"From what I understand, it was caught early," he said. "We expect a full recovery and that’s all we’re planning on right now. She has been really strong. She has been consoling me more than the other way around.
"No matter how tough you are, it’s hard to handle. The last couple games, I don’t even remember playing. I was just trying to do my job and play as hard as I could."
Walker lauded his teammates, their families and the Hurricanes' organization for the support his family has received.
"If you had to deal with this as a player, there is no better sport to be in than hockey," Walker said. "It’s a close-knit group. Obviously, I’m just trying to support my wife. We’re going to get this fixed and she’ll be fine.
"Fortunately for me, (the dressing room) is a place where I get to go and get away from it. The other wives have been great. They took her out to dinner and kept her busy."
Walker scored the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 against the Bruins, casting him as a hero for Hurricanes fans. In Boston, he was decidedly the villain after he punched Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward
in Game 5. Walker was fined $2,500 for the punch, but not suspended.
"We’re a family," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice
said. "You deal with it as you would as a family. What do you need? What can we do to help?
"We move forward in whatever direction they are comfortable with. He didn’t want to be a distraction. Scotty is making the people around him feel better.
"Certainly, I was never happier to see a guy score a goal," Maurice said
"Not a better guy deserved that goal than Scotty," Eric Staal
said after the Game 7 triumph over the Bruins. "He's been through a lot in the last little bit, but he competes every game. That's his nature. He stayed with it, kept at it and tonight he was ferocious. He was all over the forecheck and was a big help on our line and deserved that goal."
Staal’s postgame comments are cast in a new light now that news of Julie Walker’s condition has been made public.
The overtime goal for the hard-working Walker was his first goal in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games. It came with 1:14 remaining in the first overtime and eliminated the Bruins, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
"She was ecstatic and overjoyed," Walker said of his Julie’s reaction to his winning goal against the Bruins. "She is not far from my mind. I was thinking how excited she was going to be.
"It was emotional, but a lot of it is enjoyment. The team is supporting us. It’s a great spot. We’re trying to live as normal a life as we can."
Walker is expected in the lineup Monday night (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS), when the Hurricanes are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
In his moment of triumph, Walker still was thinking back to the controversial punch to the face of Ward in Game 5. Sensing a fight, Walker threw the first punch at Ward, whose hands were still at his side. Walker said he was sorry, noting he reacted to what he perceived as an ongoing altercation, not realizing Ward was defenseless at the time.
"In the handshake line, I apologized to a few guys who I know play an honest game and every player was extremely classy," Walker said of the Bruins. "I also try to play the game as honest as I can, for the most part, and try to do the best I can. I know that's hard for a few people around here to swallow, but I really do. I played a long time without having an incident like that, and everybody who knows the type of player I am knows that. I'm not proud of what happened (in Game 5), but things happen.
"I have a great deal of respect for the NHL and the Original Six teams and the tradition of the Boston Bruins
. I have a lot of respect for Boston's players and their fans and it's unfortunate what happened but I can't change the past. I'm a pretty honest player, I think, and that's not how I wanted things to happen (in Game 5)."
NHL.com staff writers Shawn P. Roarke and Mike Morreale contributed to this report.