By Sean Gallagher
Sometimes players just demand to be liked. When Paul Kariya was signed, this town's hockey fans rose up to cheer him as one. Despite his less-than-stellar first year in blue, no one has turned on the one-time superstar yet.
On the other hand, sometimes we can't explain why we like a certain player. The guy is a minor part in the machine and seldom in the spotlight, but for whatever reason, we like him. I've seen fans wearing the Zezel and Duchesne and Mike Johnson jerseys to prove it.
For me, that player was Matt Walker. Drafted in the third round in 1998 and holder of the title "longest tenured Blue" for a term of about two weeks after Jamal Mayers was traded, No. 28 signed with the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday.
Walker, who played 175 games in the Note, didn't score his first NHL goal until this season, thus ending one of my favorite recurring jokes for the game day paper. On the other hand, by that point I'd become such a big fan of Big Country that I was probably more excited for him than anyone other than him. And I was probably a very close second on that one.
As a fan, we don't select our favorite players, they either grab our attention Brett Hull style or slowly grow on us. Walker is one of those grow-slowly guys for me and my hockey-loving son. And while his signing with Chicago isn't exactly "Jim Edmonds went to the Cubs" in this town, in the Gallagher household it was even more unsettling.
As the son of GT said when I told him that our guy Walker has gone to Chicago, "Why them? Why couldn't it be anywhere else?"