RIP to former Toronto Maple Leaf Kurt Walker (1975-78) who "left the building" unexpectedly on Friday night at 9:30 from sepsis. He was a founder of "Dignity After Hockey" that helped retired hockey players suffering from the effects of life long debilitating injuries such as concussions suffered during their careers. Kurt was just 64 and for much of his life after hockey had been a tireless champion for these men who sacrificed so much to entertain us and will be sorely missed by them and by our game.
Kurt Walker (1954-2018)
I got a long email from Kurt just ten days ago about the potential TV mini-series he was working on written by former WHA and NHL player Mike Boland, a long time Toronto based award inning documentary filmmaker, and others about this topic.
"Kurt and I began talking by phone every day, YES, every day..!", wrote Boland on Saturday morning on hearing the news of his passing. "Those conversations began a month ago and would go from 10 minutes to an hour, sometimes. He embraced our 10-part drama series that Ashlin Halfnight, Dennis Mills and Jim Mirkopoulos had started two years ago. He embraced it as a partner and a brother in our greatest game...hockey. He told me stories and I told him jokes. I'm floored..!!! Kurt Walker...you're the best....!!!"
A native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, Kurt Walker had a six year professional career that included 71 NHL games with the Leafs between 1975 and 1978. He played his Junior in Sherbrooke and signed as a free agent by the Leafs after spending the 1974-75 season with the Saginaw Gears of the International League. He played with the Leafs' Oklahoma City Blazers farm club for the 1975-76 campaign while also briefly surfacing in Toronto for a short stint.
Kurt appeared in 26 games with Toronto in 1976-77 collecting two goals and five points while posting a plus-five plus/minus rating. During his third season in the organization he played a career-high 40 game for the Leafs and scored four points.
Kurt Walker as a Toronto Maple Leaf (1975-78)
The highlight of his career came in the 1978 Stanley Cup playoffs when he suited up for ten games with the Maple Leafs including the game in which Darryl Sittler scored five goals. That summer the Leafs traded Walker, along with Scott Garland, Brian Glennie and a 2nd rounder to the Los Angeles Kings for Dave Hutchinson and Lorne Stamler. Walker spent the final two seasons of his career with four different minor league clubs but after being limited by injury to just 17 games in his final season he retired in 1980.
In the years that followed Walker required 17 surgeries to repair injuries and was critical of the NHL Alumni organization which he believed does not support retired players enough financially. As a result, he created an organization called 'Dignity after Hockey’ to raise awareness and funds to provide health care to retired players. In 2017 Kurt added his name to a class-action lawsuit against the NHL for neglecting to support players suffering injuries and financial strain once retired.
RIP to a nobel hockey man who fought for so many years to help other retired players live out their lives in dignity.