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Scott Walker talks about his return to the Guelph Storm bench

'It’s a collaborative effort and it has to be. Hockey has to be. Business has to be. Life has to be'
Saxon on the Storm

Few outside the inner circle saw Friday’s announcement coming.

Seven years removed from coaching in the OHL and months removed from stepping away from the Vancouver Canucks bench, Scott Walker is back as head coach of the Guelph Storm.

But the reasons seem pretty clear to the now-48-year-old part-owner of the team.

It’s a chance to stay involved with the sport he loves at a high level, give back to that sport and be close to family.

“I’ve done it. I’ve played. I’ve climbed the mountain to the NHL, but there’s more in life than just being number one and being the guy and being the guy out front,” he says over the phone shortly after Friday’s announcement.

“I just like being around a good group of people and being with a good team.”

Walker has lived in Cambridge all his life. He’s now 20 kilometres from work, not 4,000.

He has varied business interests outside the Storm, likely gets to coach son Cooper for his final junior season and spend more time with his wife Julie and daughter Anna, who starts university in the fall.

“Honestly, this is where I feel like I’m giving back to hockey,” says Walker, who could easily be working in coaching or managing at the NHL level if he wanted to.

“I want to give back to hockey. It afforded me a great life and it’s done a lot for me. Giving back to the young players is something I want to do.”

He says his exit from Vancouver at season’s end was always in the plans and the Canucks knew it.

“It was never really a step down. People think I got fired. People think I quit. I agreed to go there with Bruce (Boudreau) until the end of the year … I only promised that I could do it to the end of the year and they were all happy with that.

“I made the decision to tell them I wasn’t coming back … but it wasn’t a shock to anybody.

“It’s a long way away. I have two kids. I’ve done that travel, long distance thing … it is one of the furthest teams from Ontario and it made it difficult to stay connected.”

Most would agree that the junior hockey landscape has changed so much it makes it very difficult to handle both the roles of coach and general manager.

But how will the coach and president of hockey operations (Walker) and the general manager (George Burnett) make decisions? Walker says the same way they always have – collaboratively.

“I’ve had final say since I’ve owned the team since 2010 and I’ve never, ever once used the final say. I still have it, but it’s not the way I operate.”

Walker says he’s operated the same way in his post-playing career, be it in management, coaching or ownership: “I have my opinion, I voice my opinion and then we make decisions as a group. It’s always been that way and I imagine it’s always going to be that way.”

He describes a great relationship with Burnett, who he has the utmost respect for.

They talked almost daily while he was in Vancouver. Golf together here almost weekly.

“If I was a selfish person or wanted the limelight, I certainly wouldn’t want a guy with his record and his resume (around). He’s one of the best, and that’s why we’ve got him.

“Lots of people don’t like to hire capable people because it makes them feel better. I want to hire smarter and better people than me, that’s what I want to do.”

Walker says he never overruled Burnett the past few years, but he has questioned things and made him think about things. He expects Burnett will do the same with him.

“We’ve both changed our minds. Never once have I said ‘it’s my way or your out’ and never has he said ‘it’s my way or I’m quitting.’ Not once. Not even close. I think we have a great relationship.”

He said it’s never gotten to “final say” and he doesn’t think it ever will.

“It’s a collaborative effort and it has to be. Hockey has to be. Business has to be. Life has to be.

“If I really feel strongly about something I’m going to tell George, but he’s going to give me some ideas and talk to me about players, days off, hard practices, what style we’re playing.”

“At the end of the day we make that final say together.”

“First of all relationships start with respect, and I have a great deal of respect for him.”

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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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