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Sports and Recreation

Sioux Falls Native Walker Duehr Adjusting To Pro Hockey Career

Walker Duehr Adjusting to Life in the NHL

On April 8th, St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota State – Mankato 5-4 in the Frozen Four. This effectively ended the Mavericks hopes of winning a national championship. For Sioux Falls native Walker Duehr, though, it was ironically a new beginning. Just days after being eliminated from the Frozen Four, Duehr was signing an NHL contract.

“The call I had with Calgary was one that I really liked a lot and it excited me a lot,” said Duehr. “I ended up signing with Calgary two to three days after our [college season] ended. I signed on a Sunday and then on Tuesday I flew from Minneapolis to Calgary, and then once I got to Calgary, I started my [week] quarantine.”

Duehr signed an entry level contract with the Calgary Flames, which is a two-year deal. After his quarantine, he was given the ok to join up and start working with the Flames affiliate (minor league) team, the Stockton Heat. Because of the current pandemic, all of Stockton’s home games this year are located in Calgary.

“Being able to play in the AHL allows you to be able to get adjusted to the pro-style game and the pro lifestyle before you’re able to make that jump to the NHL,” Duehr explained.

Throughout his journey, Duehr spent time playing AAA youth hockey in Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Chicago. He then spent his high school career playing in the United States Hockey League for Sioux City, Tri-City, Chicago, and Bloomington.

When it came time to choose a college, Duehr mentioned Minnesota State – Mankato as an attractive option, because it was less than three-hours away from his family in Sioux Falls.

“[Minnesota State] is a great university and a great hockey program, but also what was a huge factor of me choosing them was being able to be close to home, because it was the first time in four-and-a-half years that I was able to be that close to home and be able to see my parents and my family on a regular basis,” Duehr explained.

Today, roughly 1,200 miles separates Duehr from his hometown of Sioux Falls, but for most professional athletes – being far away from home is just a part of the lifestyle. For Duehr, being a professional hockey player is his dream, and it’s one that he’s had since he was young.

“When you have those questions when you’re in elementary school, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ People put doctors, veterinarians, and stuff like that. Mine was always NHL player. People would sometimes smile and say ‘yeah, hopefully your dreams come true,’ but I just had a sense in my head that it never seemed impossible to achieve that dream,” Duehr exclaimed. “What’s made hockey so special to me over the years is just being able create friendships with guys that have been on my teams, coaching staffs, and what not. I love being able to compete. Hockey is a game where if you work hard and do the right thing, it usually rewards you.”

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