J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/The Sun
The Reign will be without their highest-scoring defenseman and one of their team leaders next season if David Walker's tryout in the Deutsch Elite League goes as planned.
Walker, the first player introduced by the team in 2008, has signed with the Iserlohn Roosters to take part in training camp in August.
"Getting over to Europe for a year or two was something I wanted to do," he said. "After last year, the best time to go would be now after the season I had."
Walker, known more for his defense and fighting ability in his career, was named to his first all-star team last season when he had seven goals and 35 assists in 72 games. Both were team highs among Reign defensemen.
Walker also was an alternate captain and the face of the team in advertising campaigns. All of these credentials left a positive impression on head coach Karl Taylor and assistant coach Greg Poss, who recommended Walker to Iserlohn manager Karsten Mende.
Not only has Walker never played outside of North America, he's never played at a level higher than the ECHL. The DEL, the highest league in Germany, is equivalent in caliber of play to the American Hockey League. For Walker, who turns 31 today, to make that leap is rare.
"He's improved a lot, but we've also put him in positions to use what he has," Taylor said. "Sometimes it's the player getting better or the situation. A lot of credit goes to David and his approach to the opportunity he was given on the power play and in ice time. He definitely grew."
Walker's contract amounts to a tryout. The DEL season begins in September, and the Roosters will have until the end of August to decide whether or not to sign him for the season.
If he isn't offered a contract for the season, Walker said he would try to latch on elsewhere in the league. If he returns to North America, "I won't play anywhere else but Ontario," Walker said. "The way the organization has treated me and my wife with a lot of respect, I wouldn't put myself in any other situation."
The Reign already were preparing to enter next season without Andrew Martens, their second-highest scoring defenseman in 2009-10. Martens recently signed with the Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League.
He and Walker are considered veterans under ECHL rules, which limit teams to four such players who have played in at least 260 career professional games.
Taylor, who has coached in the league five seasons, has come to expect plenty of turnover each summer.
"We're concerned losing the talent we did," Taylor said, "but that's part of our league."
ECHL teams cannot announce signings for the 2010-11 season until July 1.