For the second time in less than a week, one of the Abbotsford Heat‘s impact players has headed off to the Swedish Elite League.
Goalie Danny Taylor inked a two-year pact with Farjestad BK last Tuesday, and later in the week, centre Ben Walter signed with Orebro HK.
“We were thinking a lot about it, and I think for my family and for myself in general, it was just time to move on and give Europe a try,” Walter explained. “We signed a one-year deal, so if it doesn’t work out, that’s how it goes. With the travel and the grind of the American league, I think it was time to try something else.”
Walter, the 29-year-old son of Heat president Ryan Walter, spent the past two seasons in Abbotsford and departs as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 108 points (34 goals, 74 assists) in 143 games. He led the club with 49 points in 68 games this season, narrowly missing out on a seventh consecutive 50-plus point season at the AHL level.
“I had a good talk with (Calgary Flames assistant general manager) John Weisbrod after the season, and they said they were definitely interested in having me back,” Walter said. “We didn’t really get into contract discussions all that much, but it was a decision I made for me and my family. It was nothing against Calgary or the Heat at all. I think it was the best direction for us to go in.”
Walter, who played his junior hockey with the Langley Hornets, thanked Heat fans via Twitter on Sunday for “two great years.” He noted it’s been a unique opportunity to play close to home, and work in the same organization as his dad.
“It’s definitely been a special two years for me,” he said. “It was great having friends and family close – my grandparents came to a lot of games, which was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun. It’s such a great organization, from Calgary all the way to Abbotsford. I really enjoyed my time here, and I couldn’t ask for anything more in terms of how I was treated.”
Walter is the second player to move from Abbotsford to Orebro in recent years – Matt Keith, the Heat’s leading scorer in 2010-11, signed with the Swedish club in 2011 and spent one season there.
The upcoming 2013-14 campaign marks the first-ever Elite League season for Orebro, which recently earned promotion from the second division.
“What I know about Sweden is, it’s a little more wide-open (hockey) with the bigger ice,” Walter said. “I’m hoping it will lend itself to my game pretty well, with the way I like to play. But we’ll see. I’ll have to adjust to it, for sure.”