We have some very sad news to close out the week.
According to a report from Toronto Maple Leafs insider James Mirtle of The Athletic former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Kurt Walker is currently fighting for his life in hospital. Mirtle is reporting that Walker has been placed in an intensive care unit due to what must be a pretty bad sepsis infection, and right now it's unclear whether or not Walker is going to be able to pull through.
Walker played in 71 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the course of three seasons in the mid to late 70s and was always known better for his toughness than for his skill on the ice. Walker's 152 career penalty minutes are more than double the number of games he played during his NHL career so that gives you a pretty good indication of what his game was.
Following his hockey career Walker became an outspoken advocate for former players of the National Hockey League who had a very hard time dealing with post career injuries. As a enforcer during the more brutal days of the sport of hockey Walker himself suffered a great deal as a result of the damage he took during his career and several years ago he opened up about how players of his ilk were treated back in the day.
"You'd get back to the bench a little wobbly, the trainer'd hold up some fingers and say, 'How many do you see?' It was always two," said Walker as per the Globe and Mail. "Then, he'd say, 'Good to go,' and I'd hop over the boards and go fight somebody."
Walker underwent a whopping 17 surgeries following his hockey career but he says it was the holes in his memory as well as his never ending battle with depression that was the hardest on him. As an incredibly tough player during his hockey career I have no problem believing that the damage to his mind was much tougher than dealing with the physical pain that he had fought through for most of his adult life.
As an advocate for post career injuries Walker found himself at odds with the National Hockey League later in his life but today everyone in the hockey world has rallied around him. Obviously everyone is hoping that Walker will pull through and if there is a silver lining here it's that Walker is an incredibly tough man. If anyone is going to be able to pull through this it will be a former professional athlete with a reputation for never quitting.
Now given the fact that Walker played in the mid 70s I understand that many of you will have never watched him play or fight but thankfully we live in an era where memorable moments that were captured on video can still be seen today. Below I have included one of Walker's most famous bouts against Boston Bruins' tough guy Stan "Bulldog" Jonathan, a man who was truly one of the big bad Bruins during his 8 seasons as an enforcer for that organization.
Our thoughts are with Walker and his family at this time.
Photo Credit: Keystone Press