By Nick Barnowski –
TRAVERSE CITY – Dane Walters is trying to take the next step in his hockey career, and in Traverse City this week, he’s getting the chance to show Jeff Blashill what he’s made of. Again.
Walters skated for the Grand Rapids Griffins head coach at Western Michigan University in 2010-11, and the two have shared the ice together this week at Detroit’s annual summer development camp.
“I was invited to camp and just taken every opportunity I can to impress the guys upstairs and hopefully win a spot next year in GR and play another year for Blashill,” Walters said.
Under Blashill, Walters won the team’s most improved player award and recorded 21 of his 83 career points. He said that playing for Blashill and current Broncos head coach Andy Murray helped improve his knowledge of the game.
“I’ve got to play for some really good coaches at Western,” the former Broncos captain said. “I’ve gotten to play for Blashill and under Andy Murray for two years and I’ve learned a lot from those guys.”
The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was thrilled with the chance to skate for the team located just three hours west of where he played in college.
“So far it’s been an honor, it’s an honor to be here,” he said. “Wherever you go, a hockey player’s a hockey player, everyone is a good guy for the most part and it’s just nice to get to know guys and to know that you fit in and you’re not totally out of place here.”
Despite just two on-ice practices and one scrimmage, Walters has learned a lot from the crop of coaches the Red Wings brought up to Traverse City. Those who have been on the ice this week include former Red Wings Chris Chelios, Tomas Holmstrom, and Jiri Fischer.
“It’s an awesome feeling and it’s an honor to be able to skate with those guys and to be able to share the ice with them,” Walters, who won the CCHA’s best defensive forward award last season, said.
Walters said the most important thing this week was “to always be a student of the game,” and so far is putting that to task.
“There’s always something new to learn and that’s what I’m going to take away from this week the most, just try to absorb as much knowledge as possible from these great coaches that are around and this great staff.”
While Walters excelled in his last season as a Bronco and also earned an amateur tryout with the American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks, he is still out to prove himself at camp. He played only three games with the Sharks, registering zero points, and was brought to Red Wings camp as a free agent invite.
“I’m looking to play my game – gritty, tenacious, trying to score some goals, play physical, do everything that I’ve done throughout my college career,” he said. “It’s got me here so I just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Heading into next season, Walters is staying incredibly optimistic about the next step in his hockey career.
“Next year I’m looking for a place to play,” he said. “I hope I can win a spot here and if not I’m going to keep going and hopefully find a place to call home.”