Wes Walz spent 13 seasons reviewing NHL game tapes. He watched meticulously, looking for ways he, and his team, could improve.
Today Walz can still be caught reviewing film periodically; looking for ways he can improve his performance. Only now his game-day necessities include a pen and a microphone instead of skates and stick, and instead of answering a reporter’s questions, he’s the one asking and assessing.
Walz, 48, is in the midst of his eighth season as a pre- and postgame analyst for Fox Sports North’s Minnesota Wild broadcasts.
“You always got to go back and critique yourself. That’s the only way you’re ever going to get better,” Walz explained. “I still remember after my first show being asked if I had watched it back yet. I did and I watched as I just kept fiddling with my pen. I don’t even remember touching my pen.
“I’ve gotten better, I think, and that’s just by watching, learning and practicing. It’s not been much different from my days as a hockey player.”
On the other side of the microphone
Walz was known amongst the media as a ‘good quote.’ He was a player that reporters sought before, after, and during a game not only because his play stood out, but because he could be relied on to help the media get their job done each night.
But he’ll be the first to admit that facing a room full of reporters wasn’t exactly a job perk.
“I wasn’t a big fan of the media when I played,” said Walz, who spent his final seven NHL seasons with the Wild. “(As a player) we never paid that much attention to media. Things have changed so much obviously with social media now where you hear everything that everybody says now, so that dynamic makes it quite interesting.
“But honestly, I really enjoy doing the TV thing. I don’t do all the games, maybe about 50 percent, so the flexibility is great.”
Walz shares the screen time with fellow alums Tom Chorske and Ben Clymer. He said he knew before taking the job that he wasn’t going to be great right off the bat, but adds that after the first year he found a level of comfort and confidence that keeps bringing him back year after year.
This season he’s also been able to share his wisdom with recently retired Wild alum Ryan Carter, who has tried his hand at the Fox Sports North desk as well.
“He’s 10 times better than I was my first couple of times,” Walz says. “He shadowed me before he went on air and then the training wheels came off. I told him, I didn’t even have training wheels my first time, so consider himself lucky.
“It’s a fun job at the end of the day.”
Walz played in 607 NHL. He estimates he missed nearly that many of his own kids’ hockey games in return.
A father to five—Kelvin, Jaedyn, Brehna, Cheyne and Wrexyn—Walz largely left a lot of hockey job options on the table in order to spend more time watching them play.
“I was in Tampa coaching for a few years and I wanted to come back home here (to Minnesota),” he said. “That led to coaching some high school hockey (at East Ridge in Woodbury) but this is my second year off from that so I can spend even more time with my younger kids.”
Walz admits coaching high school hockey was fun, even getting the opportunity to coach his oldest daughter Jaedyn at East Ridge, but while giving back to the game has been important to him, giving back to his family has been even more of a priority.
“My younger ones are 9 and 11, and I want to watch them play,” he said. “The older three played their youth hockey while I was playing so I feel like I missed out on that. The younger ones weren’t even born, so I want to see them play as much as I can.”
Once a hockey player, always a hockey player
While Walz’ attention is pulled in other directions, he still makes time to get on the ice once a week with a group of friends to keep in shape.
“I have to make sure I can stay in my jeans and suits,” he said with a smile. “Truthfully I started skating before the (outdoor Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks) alumni game three years ago – just six weeks before that so I wouldn’t embarrass myself out there. When I said I was retiring, I wasn’t kidding.
“Now me and a group of buddies play every Tuesday at noon, grab some lunch and a few beers and head home.”
Walz said while his group consists of former players of all levels, he unfortunately hasn’t been able to keep tabs on too many former Wild teammates, due to the distance between them. But he knows if he ever happens to bump into any of them, it’s like nothing has changed.
“If I ran into Willie Mitchell or Nick Schultz, it would be like we were back in the Wild locker room,” he said. “There’s just something about hockey and your teammates that always brings you back.”