Cycling has the Manx Missile in Mark Cavendish.
The Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League have the Minnesota Missile in forward Ben Walker.
And whats better than one Minny Missile? Two of them, of course.
Which is what the Royals may end up with if Bens brother, 16-year-old defenceman Jack Walker, makes the team as expected.
Ben Walker, a revelation upon joining the Royals mid-season in 2011-12, could be ranked for the 2013 NHL draft by Central Scouting after showing breakout speed in garnering 34 points in 46 games for Victoria as a 17-year-old.
Although Minnesota is a noted hotbed for hockey in the U.S., much of that is focused on high school and NCAA hockey. So playing major junior in a West Coast Canadian city far removed from his home state was a bit of a culture shock for Ben Walker when he joined the Royals last season.
Jack Walker is going through some of that during this WHL pre-season, but having his brother here has made the move a lot smoother.
Bens move was more of a challenge in coming out halfway through the season and not knowing anybody on the team or in the city, acknowledged Jack Walker.
Ive had more of an easier transition because hes here.
The toughest part was making the decision to forego the NCAA, which happened when Jack Walker stepped out for his first WHL exhibition game.
The college route has been eliminated for me, he said.
The finality of that decision is a big thing for a 16-year-old American hockey player to absorb.
Leaving my schoolmates and my school team [where he would have been a sophomore at Edina High] was kind of hard, admitted Jack, undersized at five-foot-10 and 170 pounds but razor-like as a puck mover with 14 points in 29 regular-season games last year and two points in three playoff games at the Xcel Energy Center as a freshman with the Edina Hornets.
Major junior is regarded as the fastest potential path to pro hockey, which factored in the decision for a defenceman, who represented the United States at the 2012 Under-17 Five Nations tournament and 2012 Youth Winter Olympics, and who could be on the radar for the Americans in future world junior championships.
Royals GM Cameron Hope said landing a player the quality of Jack Walker is in essence like having two first-round draft picks in last years bantam draft.
An important part of Jack Walkers decision last month to sign with Victoria was the chance to finally play with his brother.
Weve always missed each other by a year [in youth hockey] so have never played on the same team. Last season at Edina High would have been our first season playing together, but then Ben came to play here in Victoria, said Jack Walker.
Not that the brothers among five siblings in the Walker family havent spent a great deal of time together on the ice. Dad Ron Walker is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officer, while mom Amy Walker manages a local rink in Edina, the latter having given the brothers ample morning hours to go at each other on the ice before their school days started.
Those competitive sibling fires burn in other ways, too, as Ben and Jack freely throw good-natured verbal zingers back and forth at each other in the way brothers do. This could be the start of a big familial storyline for the Royals. A pop group of the 1960s called the Walker Brothers had a famous hit called The Sun Aint Gonna Shine Anymore. The Royals are hoping their Walker Brothers instead spread plenty of sunshine on the ice.
I dont think about things like the draft Im just focusing on playing my game day-in and day-out, Ben Walker said.
The Walkers are among 27 players 24 skaters and three goalies preparing for the final two pre-season games Friday in Ladner and Saturday at 2 p.m. at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the Vancouver Giants.
The Royals start the WHL regular season
Sept. 21 against the Giants at the PNE Pacific Coliseum before opening at home the following night against the Giants at the Memorial Centre.
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