Nashvillepredators.com recently caught up with Predators forward Scott Walker, who, despite being sidelined while recovering from sports hernia surgery, has had a busy schedule. His days have been filled with rehabbing, charitable activities and a mid-November appearance at a New York press event that announced a partnership between the National Hockey League, the NHL Players' Association and country music star Garth Brooks' Teammates for Kids Foundation. We asked him to fill us in on these activities and share a few thoughts on the Predators' season so far.
Q. How's your recovery going?
Scott Walker: Great. Probably as good or better than I expected. I haven't had any setbacks and everything's been going great. I would say we're still on the same game plan--seven to 10 weeks [from the date of surgery], but hopefully the short end of that.
Q. What have you been doing while you've been away from the ice?
SW: Mostly rehabbing. It almost seems like you have less time than when you are playing, because you do more rehab more often.
Q. What kind of rehab activities do they have you doing?
SW: Just exercises, icing, a lot of medical stuff, massage, stretching, a lot of things like that. It's pretty structured.
Q. Is it tough to watch from the sidelines as injuries continue to mount for the team?
SW: Well, I thought the team was doing great and I think as injured guys it's easier to recover when the team is doing well. You don't have that pressure to come back as an older guy. When the team started to lose there for a bit, it was like you're trying to rush yourself or hoping you can get better quicker. But the team's doing so well and playing great, that you have that little bit of a relax where you can say, OK, now I've got time to heal. Now with a lot of mounting injuries it's the same thing. Now it picks up. It's like, hopefully I can get back and help out, and maybe before some of these other guys now if they may be lengthy injuries.
Q. Can you talk about the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids event in New York a few weeks ago?
SW: Yeah, it was a good time. I've met Garth a couple of times, and know him pretty good. I was asked to be part of his starting a partnership--which he's already had with the [NHL Players' Association] and is now joining with the NHL. I thought it was a great time to show that the partnership [between the NHL and NHLPA] is really working and hopefully that everybody is buying in. That's the most important thing now, is to get over everything [related to the labor dispute that was settled in July] and move on and hopefully make some successful ventures together. Hopefully this is the start of one.
Q. Do you serve as the liaison between the Predators and the foundation?
SW: I don't like to say I'm the guy, because every guy--whoever joins--gets to be as much a part of it as I do. Darcy [Hordichuk], [David Legwand], and a lot of the guys on the team are a big part of it. I may be just the guy that sets up some meetings or some ways to get in contact with them, but other than that it's kind of each for his own.
Q. Why is it important for you to be involved in charities like this?
SW: That's the one through the league and through the Player's Association. It's important to get involved because I think it's a great organization. Personally I have my own, lots of different ones, and I don't think that most generally I try to stick with one. There are so many needy people and needy groups out there that it's just great [to be able to help]. I really like to work with the kids. That's what puts a smile on your face, when the kids just light up. I've done a few things in my suite with Make A Wish, and just to see that you can make that much of a difference in someone's life whether it be for one day or one hour, it's just a tremendous feeling.
We walk around and we think we are very fortunate to be NHL players, but we also don't think of ourselves as famous people, per se. Sometimes for little kids and people it makes a big deal. It's nice for us to lend ourselves or lend our time out to hopefully make a difference, because it really isn't that big of a deal to give an hour or a day out of your time.
Q. Your thoughts on the Predators' season to date versus expectations?
SW: It's unbelievable. It's got to be ahead of expectations. I know our expectations are high--mine were extremely high. I thought if we didn't finish in the top three in the conference then we would be disappointed. We have a great team and expect a lot. But the team has been playing tremendously well, battling through a lot of injures and I'm just hoping we can keep it up.
Q. Is there anything that has most surprised you so far about the season?
SW: Nothing. That's the surprising thing. Tomas [Vokoun] playing great hasn't surprised me. People say, well, he's playing so good. But I knew that. I've seen him play at the [World Championships], I've seen him play here. And all the other things that have happened, all the great players that we have, they were always great. It just happens to be now that it's coming all together.