Calling all Men

| March 1, 2011 | 1 Comment

Former Minnesota Wild player Wes Walz served as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning after retiring as a player, then moved back to Minnesota when he was replaced in Tampa. He will be a guest speaker at the Archdiocesan Men’s Conference March 12 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Bruce Kluckhohn / Minnesota Wild

Former Wild player among speakers slated for annual archdiocesan men’s conference

Former Minnesota Wild player Wes Walz remembers what it was like getting ready for a crucial NHL playoff game, like the famous Game 7 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in 2003 that gave the team its first-ever playoff series win.

Those feelings have returned as he gets ready to speak to an audience of several hundred men at the Cathedral of St. Paul March 12 at the annual archdiocesan men’s conference.

Walz will give a brief testimony during the event, which also will feature Archbishop John Nienstedt, Father Bill Baer, pastor of Trans­figuration in Oakdale, John Buri, psychology professor at the Uni­versity of St. Thomas, and Dave Rinaldi of NET Ministries. The event begins with Mass at 8 a.m., and ends at noon.

Stepping outside the box

“It’s something that I’ve never done before,” said Walz, 40, of St. Ambrose in Woodbury, about sharing his faith with an audience. “I do a lot of talking about hockey. . . . I think it’ll be good for me to step outside the box a little bit and talk to some people about my faith and how important it is to me and my family.

“I’m a little nervous. Whenever you get up in front of somebody and talk about something that you’ve never really talked about in front of 500 people, it can be a little nerve wracking. But, once I get up there, I’ll be fine.”

Fortunately, his first foray into faith at a podium will be a “home game.” He likely will get a receptive ear and a positive response from the men in attendance. He says he will tell a few hockey stories, plus give examples of how his faith has guided him in a profession that can get rough, even violent.

“This is a setting for me to talk about my faith and how important it’s been for me,” he said. “I can relate it to hockey. I’m going to try to tie the two together.”

Some might wonder whether faith is compatible with a profession in which fights are commonplace and blows to the head happen every game, if not every shift. Does Walz, who has children who play hockey, battle this kind of tension?

“Not at all,” he said. “This is our job and our profession. We go out there and we play hard against each other. We’re respectful of each other even though it’s a hard-nosed game.”

Walz was one of the original players of the Wild, playing from 2000 until 2007, when he retired during the season. He served as an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning for two years, then chose to leave the organization when he was told he would be reassigned.

Walz, his wife, Kerry-Anne, and their five children then moved back to Minnesota.

“We moved right back into the same home we did when we left for two years,” he said. “We tried to sell our house [after moving to Tampa]. We had it rented out when we were gone for about seven months of the year, and then we had it on the market for five months and, probably like everybody else, couldn’t get rid of it. So, we ended up just moving right back into it. So, it was like it was meant to be.”

Happy to be here

Walz said he plans on staying in Minnesota for the long term. He has been doing some volunteer work with the Wild and is open to being on the coaching staff some day.

He spent the winter coaching his son, Kelvin, a senior at East Ridge High School, whose season ended in the Section 3AA playoffs. Two of his daughters, Jaedyn, 14, and Brehna, 11, also play hockey. Whether he coaches their teams or works with them one-on-one, he is glad to have more time to spend with them and their siblings.

“Things happen for a reason, and we would never have had this opportunity if things wouldn’t have blown up down in Tampa,” he said. “There’s always a silver lining to every story. My wife and I laugh at each other now — all those prayers and everything we talked about, and the guidance from God. It was like it was meant to be. And, we’re so happy to be back here.”

If you go

» What: Archdioces­an Men’s Conference 2011: “The Archbishop Calls His Men.”
» When: 8 a.m. – noon, March 12.
» Where: Cathedral of St. Paul.
» Speakers: Archbishop John Nienstedt, Father Bill Baer, Dave Rinaldi, John Buri, Wes?Walz.
» Cost: $20 adults; $10 students.
» To register: Download form online at . You can also call (651) 291-4488 or e-mail .

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