Walker Duehr scores first NHL goal against St. Louis

In the wire service recap of the game, the news merited a couple lines.

“Walker Duehr’s first NHL goal broke a scoreless tie and gave Calgary the lead in the second period,” it said.

“Duehr took a pass from Nazem Kadri late in the second period and wristed a shot past goalie Thomas Greiss, who had stopped 61 successive shots over his past three games. Kadri set up the goal with a pinpoint pass on a 2-on-1 breakout.

“Duehr was called up over the weekend and made the second start of his career on Tuesday. He played in one game for the Flames in 2021.”

The goal by Duehr gave the Flames a 2-1 lead in a game they would ultimately win 4-1, but any time someone scores their first NHL goal, it’s a lot more than that.

Duehr’s family, from South Dakota, had driven to St. Louis to watch him play Tuesday, and by some quirk of scheduling, there was a back-to-back scenario with the Blues, so the whole crew hung around and went to the game Thursday night as well.

The Duehr posse included his mom and dad, his fiancée, his fiancée’s parents, his brother and wife – most of the population of South Dakota, a state best-known for Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug and its iron-pumping governor, Kristi Noem.

“Good for the young man from South Dakota,” said Flame coach Darryl Sutter after the game. Some reporters remarked that Duehr was one of the best players ever to hail from South Dakota.

“He’s the only one, I think,” Sutter said.

Sutter said it with the look of someone who knows a thing or two about being from a small town and making it all the way from a ranch to the show.

“It’s awesome,” Sutter said. “Everyone always remembers their first ones.

“That’s a kid that wasn’t drafted,” he added. “Comes up the hard way, spends four years in school, and starts in the American (Hockey League) where everybody should.”

After the game, Duehr was asked about how it felt to score his first NHL goal.

He didn’t say it, but you just have to read his bio to get a sense of how it must have felt. Starting in 2014-15, with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, followed in 2015-16 by the Tri-City Storm, followed in 2016-17 by the Chicago Steel, followed in 2016-17 by the Bloomington Thunder, followed by four seasons at Minnesota State, followed in 2020-21 by the Stockton Heat, then again in 2021-22, followed in 2023 by the Calgary Flames of the NHL.

How many bus trips? How many drive thrus? How many motels where you can’t quite figure out the remote?

How many nights spent wondering if it might be a better idea to get a day job back in Sioux Falls?

Of course Duehr didn’t say any of that. That’s not the hockey player’s way.

“Pretty cool feeling,” he said. “Something you dream of – like that [it’s] pretty cool.

“Naz [Kadri] made a great play to get it over to me,” he added, “and [I] just tried to get it off quick, and it went in there.”

“Could you hear your mom yelling?” someone else asked.

“I bet she was screaming pretty good along with the rest of them,” he said. “Credit to those guys (the family) as well. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Someone else suggested he was inspiring young hockey players in South Dakota to have a little more hope.

“They (kids in South Dakota) see me doing it, it probably puts a belief in their head which it should,” he said. “Anybody who puts their head down and goes to work can achieve pretty great things.

“Hopefully,” he said, “they can look at it and dream big.”

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