BROOKFIELD, N.S. – Days of being nervous before a big hockey game are few and far between for hearing impaired goaltender Brent Walters.
The 20-year-old has learned over the years the importance being mentally strong; staying calm in the crease, having control of the game and establishing confidence in teammates.
“I try not to be nervous because if you get nervous your mind might mess up, so you should go out there, have fun, play hard and stay focused,” he said.
Wise words from Walters, who is preparing to represent his country for a second time at an international tournament. The Brookfield resident will man the pipes for Canada at the 2019 Winter Deaflympics in Italy in December.
“It will be a good experience going there,” he said.
Walters played for his country at the world deaf hockey championship in 2017 in Buffalo, N.Y., settling for a silver medal after losing the gold-medal game to the United States. Walters said Canada is looking to atone for that loss.
“I remember playing against them; I wanted to beat them so bad,” he said, adding this year’s roster is similar to the 2017 team, but with a few new players. “Hopefully we can bring home gold.”
Walters made the Canadian team after attending a week-long tryout camp in Regina this summer. Team Canada coach Mike Merriman said there’s a lot to like about the young goaltender.
“I like his experience; experience means a lot,” said Merriman. “I like his demeanour off the ice, I like his character because that just makes you a better player when you’re on the ice – you can’t separate the two.
“On the ice, he tracks the puck well, he plays the angles well and he’s not afraid in terms of the battles in close; he’s on top of the puck as well.”
Walters said his selection to the national squad has sparked interest from family and friends, who joked they wouldn’t mind tagging along for the trip.
“My cousin said it’s exciting, and I told some of my friends, and they were like, ‘yeah, I wanna come too,’ and I said, ‘no you’re not,’ so they all wanna come with me, I guess,” he laughed.
Walters wears a hearing aid, however, hearing devices are not allowed at the deaf Olympics. He said that presents a challenge in the fact that it’s difficult to communicate with teammates.
Brent and his brother Glen-Ryan have spent countless hours playing hockey together over the years. Glen-Ryan is Brent’s biggest fan and said he’s proud to watch his younger brother get the opportunity to represent his country for a second time.
“It’s crazy; I’m so excited for him. He’s worked so hard for it.”
Walters played minor hockey in Brookfield and Truro. He then played junior B in East Hants, and last season joined the Valley Jr. A Wildcats as a backup. This season, he plans to return to East Hants.
The 2019 Winter Deaflympics will feature six different sporting events – hockey, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, snowboarding and chess. It will take place Dec. 12 to 21 in three cities in Italy – Milan, Valtellina and Valchiavenna, which are located in the northern part of the country. The Canadian men’s ice hockey team will play six games in nine days.