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Lightning defenseman Matt Walker speaks his mind



New Lightning defenseman Matt Walker never seems like he is at a loss for words. During interviews for the story about how Tampa Bay wants to revamp its locker room culture a bit, or at the very least make sure the players always are ready to play, Walker talked about how he developed his own work ethic, the players who were role models and how by understanding his limitations, he has turned himself into a better player. Walker, 29, took a big step in establishing his reputation as a player teammates can count on when during last season's playoffs with the Blackhawks, he played and fought with a finger that had been disfigured by a flying puck.

And speaking of Waker, his four-year deal will pay $1.275 million next season, $1.625 million in 2010-11, $1.9 million (including a $200,000 signing bonus) in 2011-12 and $2 million (including a $300,000 signing bonus) in 2012-13.

So, here he is in his own words.

Assessing his own abilities: "For me, when I come to the rink, I work. I'm not one of the gifted players who can kind of come in and cruise through practices. I've always been a guy who works hard and works extra, always proving myself. It's something you carry into games. I always had peers who taught me to play and have fun. But when it's time to go to work, you go to work. We only have to come in for a couple of hours a day. It's not too much to ask."

On his role models: "My first few years in St. Louis, I had Dallas Drakes, Scott Melanbys, Keith Tkachuks, Doug Weight, Pronger, MacInnis. The list goes on and on. These are great, great hockey players with great accomplishments. What I always noticed is they had their fun. They're great guys to be around and kept it light. But when you're on the ice or when you're planning to get on the ice, it's business again. It's a switch. You just can't jump on the ice and be in a game and be ready to go. Things need to be said and talked about. It's business. You can still have a ton of fun, but you have to come to work."

On policing the locker room: "I don't think it should be that hard if you have a couple of guys in there saying the right things about the game and talking about the game. Every team has some guys who like to be loose before the game, some guys who shut it down for two hours and get focused that way. I think after last season, guys will be hungry. It's a long year and when you're not doing well, it seems to drag on forever. We, obviously, live a great life, and when you're winning you can't touch it. You feel like you can do no wrong, and the season flies by and you have a good time. The fans are excited, the town's excited. It makes it better for everybody." 

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:39pm]


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