Perhaps no player from this province has made more of his time in the sport than Wall, the 26-year-old defenceman from Mount Pearl.
That time has included four full years of play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, with a QMJHL championship in 2010 as a member of the Moncton Wildcats; five years at the Canadian university level and a national intercollegiate championship with the University of New Brunswick in 2016; and successful first season as a professional, earning the team’s rookie of the year award with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder in 2016-17, with a couple of promotions to the AHL to boot.
And it’s not been all play. Wall earned two degrees — in math and electrical engineering — during his time at the University of Prince Edward Island and UNB, and was an academic all-Canadian in all five of his collegiate years.
Now, his hockey — and life’s — journey is taking him overseas, to Norway and Frisk Asker, a team in that country’s elite league.
“If you are thinking of going to Europe, it seems you need to make up your mind pretty early,” said Wall, who will attend the training camp of his new team, located about 20 kilometres from Oslo, beginning the third week of August.
“There might be good opportunities (in the ECHL or AHL) that come up later in the summer, but you can’t really be sure.”
Wall could have certainly returned to Glen Falls, N.Y., and the Thunder, for whom he had six goals, 38 assists and a plus-10 rating in 66 games last season. However, despite that solid rookie season and positive reviews on his play in two games in separate call-ups to the AHL’s Utica Comets (and some encouraging and much-appreciated words from fellow Newfoundlander and Comets assistant coach Jason King), the realist in Wall convinced himself this might be a good time to try another something else.
“Where I went to university for five years, it means it’s usually going to be harder to get into the AHL than someone who is younger and coming straight out of junior,” said the 5-11, 190-pound rearguard, who will turn 27 in November.
“So I thought maybe I would give Europe a chance while I could.”
Through his European agent, Wall had also garnered interest from teams in Slovakia, France and Denmark, but settled on Asker, whose preliminary roster for 2016-17shows four other North American imports, including former University of North Dakota captain Mario Lamoureux.
Then again, Wall has always been someone who has maintained options.
After finishing his junior career as an overager with the Quebec Remparts, Wall attended the training camp of the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. When that didn’t work out, he elected the university route, availing of the scholarship package accrued during his QMJHL carer, which began with the St. John’s Fog Devils, continued in Montreal after the Fog Devils franchise was sold and moved there, and finished up in Moncton and Quebec City.
He made the most of his time in school, completing his math degree at UPEI in just three years, while also working on a diploma in engineering. He then transferred to UNB, where he earned his engineering degree, finishing up by receiving the school’s 2016 Brunswickan Award for highest grade-point average (4.1) among varsity athletes.
With that sort of academic achievement, it was a given there would be engineering jobs waiting for Wall on graduation, but once again, he considered his choices. A brief stint with Adirondack in the spring of 2016 led to him accepting a contract offer from the Thunder and attendance at the training camp of the AHL’s Stockton Heat.
“I was lucky in that the program (at UNB) really sets you up as preparation for a pro career if you go that route,” said Wall.
“It’s university, but one of the things (Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall) emphasized was that you were expected to prepare and play like a pro, but that you had to do your schoolwork, too.”
“That worked for me.”
Wall, whose hockey career has taken him from Whitehorse (for the 2007 Canada Winter Games) to Trentino, Italy (for the 2013 world university games, where he helped Canada win a gold medal), is more than ready for the next leg of what has become a very interesting expedition.
“In my last year of junior, a kind of began thinking what might do … kind of a plan, I guess you could say,” he said.
“Things don’t always work out exactly as you plan then, but so far, things seem to be working pretty well out for me.”
More Newfoundlanders will be skating across the Atlantic in 2016-17
Alex Wall will be one of several Newfoundlanders who will play hockey in Europe this fall.
• Kilbride’s Luke Adam will return to Adler Mannheim after a solid first European season with the German Elite League (DEL) team. The 27-year-old forward got a contract extension with Mannheim after averaging almost a point per game (15 G, 20A in 38GP) in 2016-17.
• Also returning to the team he played with last season is goaltender Evan Mosher of Conception Bay South, who despite facing a lot of rubber with the last-place Herlev Eagles of Denmark’s top circuit, has agreed to be the team’s No. 1 netminder for a second year.
• Changing European teams will defenceman Chris Owens of St. John’s, who is moving from Fehérvár, a Hungarian team that plays in Austria’s elite league to Lausitzer Füchse, of Germany’s second division. Owens had five goals and 10 assists for Fehérvár last season.
• Add Kenny Neil’s name to the list of players from this province plying their trade in Europe. The 25-year-old forward from Clarenville, who finished up his U.S. collegiate career with the Oswego (N.Y.) Lakers this spring, has a contract with EHC Waldkraiburg, a German third division club. Neil had 122 points in 102 career games for Oswego.