My professional hockey career has had its ups and downs. After my senior season at UMass-Lowell in 2015, I signed with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL and was ecstatic just to be playing hockey after college. Well, I got the axe after the first preseason game. I waited 11 days, no calls. I was extremely close to hanging up the skates and looking for jobs but my roommate and very close friend, Nick Gordon, convinced me to keep going. I eventually signed with the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL and had no clue what I was getting myself into. I didn’t even know what SPHL stood for. I believe things happen for a reason and landing in Peoria may have not only been the best thing that happened to me at the time, but may have saved my hockey career.
|Wallin played in SPHL Peoria for parts of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. Photo credit: www.rivermen.net|
Later that season, I got a call from Cail MacLean, the head coach of the Adirondack Thunder, asking me to come play in Glens Fall, NY (We later joked that it was a ballsy move to drive to NY not knowing how long I would be there). I played the final 25 games of the regular season and two rounds of playoffs there and re-signed there for the next year. I was pumped, once again, to get a chance in the ECHL. We happened to be double-affiliated (two AHL teams) which, for a fringe guy, was a scary prospect in and of itself. After guys got sent down and all that fun stuff, I got snipped after two games, packed my bags and flew to Peoria once again.
I was in Peoria for only a month this time and then got a call from the Rapid City Rush in South Dakota. This call-up is probably what I would say was my “coming out party.” When I got there, the team was in dead last so I got a really good chance to play and play big minutes. I played close to 50 games there, but being a guy who cherishes family, friends and being close to home, being two time zones away was not an attractive perk to going back to RC. It’s not that I disliked Rapid or anything, I really just wanted to be close to home. Unfortunately, they still had my rights. Fortunately, long story short, I squeaked through all the cracks and became a free agent. I was at a bar in St. Louis, Missouri at a friends wedding when I saw that I hadn’t been protected. Who was the first guy to call, five minutes later? Cail MacLean.
|The Rapid City Rush were one of three teams Wallin played for in '16-17. He was even teammates with current co-captain Zach Tolkinen there. Photo credit: www.rapidcityjournal.com|
I had and still have a great relationship with Cail. He is one of the best coaches I have ever encountered but more importantly, he’s one of the best guys. He’d run through a wall for you and truly wants what is best for his players. Which is probably the same reason he got called up to be an assistant in the AHL that same summer. A few weeks later I got a call from newly hired head coach, Brad Tapper. Nervousness, anxiety and excitement all came over me. “Am I going to get cut AGAIN?” Luckily, things went smooth through camp and the 2017-18 season was off and running.
I had finally kind of established myself as a “Coast Guy,” and was coming into my own as a player. I was playing well, was playing with some really good guys and was lucky enough to get a call on New Years Day that the Binghamton Devils in the AHL wanted to call me up. I was almost in tears. Not just once I was ready to shut it down and here I am getting to play in the league below the NHL. I got four games, sat a bunch, and learned a lot. Some guys take for granted how special that is. I will never. I worked my whole life to get as high as I can in the hockey pyramid and I climbed one more leg of the ladder.
|Wallin played four games with AHL Binghamton in 17-18, before returning to Adirondack for the playoff run. Photo credit: Binghamton Devils.|
Fast forward, and we’re starting to believe we can make a real playoff run [in Adirondack]. We did just that. Our barn was rocking for home playoff games and we went on the road and did our job there too. We ended up losing in five games to the Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Finals but it was an incredible journey. If this wasn’t the closest team I have ever been apart of, it’s right up there. We probably weren’t the most skilled team but we all meshed so well off the ice that when it came to playing on the ice, we wanted to win for our best buddies because we didn’t want the season to end and have to leave each other. It’s corny, but I’m sure all those guys would say the same.
|The Mariners made their first visit to Cool Insuring Arena on October 26th, an emotional return for Wallin.|
I love to play hockey and I loved playing in Adirondack and living on Lake George. But, when the chance came to play where I live in the summer, how could I turn that down? Lost in the shuffle is Alex Loh, who has/had been nothing but supportive of me and one of the guys who truly believed in me all along. So when I asked for that trade, although it was extremely difficult, he understood, tried to make it happen, and did. I was torn emotionally a little bit because I have come to love Glens Falls, the arena, the fans, and the boys but it was so exciting to be able to start something new and get to be with the Mariners for their first year.
So when Keels asked me to write about going back to play in Adirondack, I jumped at the chance. The bus ride was like any other, but when we pulled into the town that I know so well, stayed at the old Queensbury Hotel as an opponent, and ate at Downtown City Tavern, it hit me. But, then it hit me again, a little harder, when I walked in the arena, walked by the door that I entered a bajillion times and headed for the visiting team rooms. It was wasn’t “sadness,” as much as it was weird. I can’t even imagine being a guy that played 700 games for a team and returning as an opponent.
|It was a beautiful fall day in the quaint town of Glens Falls for Wallin's return.|
When I got on the ice, I was greeted to cheers from Section N and others. It really meant a lot that I was getting welcomed back by the fans who seemingly yell at every visiting player. The game itself didn’t go how we wanted but it was a fun moment getting to play back there. When I walked out, I saw all the old trainers, some of my old teammates, their girlfriends and fans who greeted me at the door telling me they miss me and wish I was still in Glens Falls. That means a lot to a guy like me. Glens Falls means a lot to me.
|The Mariners fell to the defending North Division champs, 3-1. Wallin had the primary assist on Maine's only goal.|
I know that I will play there again, but it probably won’t have the same effect on me as the first time going back. Life goes on and so does my hockey career, which I am so happy landed me in the great state of Maine. I cherish and won’t take my (parts of) three years in Adirondack for granted, but starting anew in Portland is a really special thing to be a part of. I’m sure that when it’s all said and done, Portland will mean as much to me as Glens Falls does.
|No caption necessary.|