Discover more from Shap Shots
An "International Free Agent" Jake Walman is waiting for the call from Canada or USA for worlds
The Red Wings defenseman will likely be making his senior international debut next month in Finland or Latvia.
Jake Walman is likely going to make his senior international team debut next month at the IIHF World Championships in Finland and Latvia.
The Red Wings are going to miss the playoffs, Walman has been one of the most-underrated defenseman in the NHL this season. When you consider the pool of players going to worlds, Walman could be playing on a top defensive pair.
It just still has to be determined for which country.
Walman has duel citizenship for the United States and Canada. He was born in Toronto, but his mom is an American, he grew up playing in Toronto, but played college hockey in the United States.
Until he plays in an IIHF event for either country, Walman is technically an international hockey free agent.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Walman was nearly claimed by both countries for IIHF purposes during the 2016 World Junior Championships. He was invited to camp by both the Americans and the Canadians, and initially chose to play for the United States, but the IIHF negated his eligibility for that tournament, stating he hadn’t played two consecutive years in the United States.
With that ruling Walman went to camp with Canada, but never played an IIHF-sanctioned game because of an injury.
“I had chose America because they had reached out first, I’m always big on playing somewhere I’m wanted,” Walman said. “So when I found out I wasn’t eligible, I was fortunate I was able to play for Canada, but two or three days before the tournament I hurt my shoulder and couldn’t play.”
While he’s never played in an IIHF-sanctioned tournament for either team, Walman did represent Canada at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Maccabiah Games are essentially the “Jewish Olympics," and Walman was part of a Canadian team that won a gold medal against teams from the United States and Israel.
“So I really take pride in being Jewish and next to the Olympics and the World Cup, the Maccabiah Games are one of the bigger international gatherings from all around the world,” Walman said. “It was unreal, we spent a week or to there for the tournament and also got watch all the other sports. I got to tour the country, I got to go the Western Wall, it was a life highlight for me.”
“Honestly, I’d love to do that again, I think we could build a super team with some of the guys we have in the NHL that are Jewish,” Walman added.
This prompted a conversation about the recent World Baseball Classic, where Israel was represented by MLB and MiLB players with Jewish heritage. For the World Baseball Classic, representing a country came down to a matter of being eligible for citizenship, and because of Israel’s Law of Return all Jews, and the children and grandchildren of Jews are eligible for Israeli citizenship.
“We’d have a pretty good team,” Walman said. “With Adam Fox and the Hughes brothers, that’s a good start.”
Buffalo Sabres goalie Devon Levi is also Jewish.
“We’ve got a pretty good goalie now,” Walman said. “Add in (Jason) Zucker and (Zach) Hyman, I know who those guys are, so I try to say something to them on the ice to just kind of connect the Jewish aspect. I take a lot of pride in being Jewish, I’m proud of who I am.”
On Wednesday night Walman Facetimed with his parents back home for the first night of Passover. He still went and had a meal at Texas Roadhouse, he said it’s hard to be a professional athlete and not eat grains, not a traditional seder, but hey reform Judaism is also about embracing your own traditions.
While Walman is proud of his heritage, he’s also proud to be a Canadian, and said while neither country has reached out at this point, he’d love to represent Canada at the world championships.
“That’s where I learned how to play hockey and Canada is known for hockey and I think I kind of owe it to Canada to play for the place that I feel like I’m from,” Walman said. “I’m prideful to be a hockey player from Canada.”
But what about if the United States reaches out first?
“Oh we’ll see, I wanna play where I’m wanted,” Walman said.
I guess you can consider that an open letter to Hockey Canada and USA Hockey.
Columbus Blue Jackets AGM Chris Clark is the GM for Team USA at Worlds in 2023. Team Canada’s leadership group is made up of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong and Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman, who happened to come together last season for the trade that sent Walman from St. Louis to Detroit — that makes for a potentially fun wrinkle, doesn’t it?
Either way Walman is waiting for the call, and maybe it’s just a question of which country picks up the phone first.