Anthony Walsh has lots of poise for an 18-year-old.
He needs it from time to time on the ice when opponents notice that Walsh doesn’t look like most other hockey players. “TMZ” might notice that, too, as the celebrity gossip TV show recently introduced a story about Mr. T taking part in a celebrity puck-shooting event in Chicago with, “Wait, is that a black person playing ice hockey?”
Mr. T’s stick work won’t ever be confused with that of Anthony, who was a forward on the Edina High team that won the 2013 state hockey championship. Channel 45, which covered the tournament, called Anthony’s goal in the title game the play of the game, while a local weekly, Let’s Play Hockey, chose him as its player of the week in its tournament-coverage issue. After graduating in June, Anthony plans to play junior hockey in Ontario.
The BMOC has been somebody I’ve known since he was a little guy, because his parents are colleagues of mine at the Star Tribune. (I thought I should interview Anthony before he gets famous enough to tell me that his people will get back to me.) I asked the mild-mannered teen about dealing with unpleasant incidents that sometimes come up in games. My startribune.com/video doesn’t begin with the precise shot I wanted, because that would have resulted in getting my camera wet.
Q How did you get into playing hockey?
A My brother [Ben] started, and I thought it was pretty cool. My brother actually got inspired to start playing by the Dinomites. We went to Park Avenue Methodist, and they were receiving an award. He saw them and he thought, “That’s really cool. I want to get an award.” He decided he wanted to play, so I decided I wanted to play, too.
Q You scored a pretty important goal in the championship game. Tell me about it.
A It was a breakaway, a little movement, and went five hole. The play itself is kind of hard to remember, just because it happened so fast and it was kind of all on instinct. I went down there to block the shot. It popped out perfectly to the center of the ice. It was kind of a one-on-one race with me and the other guy. I beat the guy out of the puck going on the goalie.
Q What is it like being a hockey champion in Edina, where hockey is king?
A It’s pretty nice. You don’t really understand it until it happens to you. Kind of walking around, you’ve got that aura of, you know, “I’m a state champion.” You don’t let it get to you or anything, but it definitely changes you. Edina has such a prestigious history for hockey, and now to be part of the legend of it — there’s nothing better than that.
Q What has your experience been as a young black man playing a sport that is predominantly white?
A I really haven’t had too much trouble. Every once in a while, I’ll get a comment like, “You should be playing basketball” or, “This isn’t your sport.” You really have just got to shake it off and act like you didn’t hear it, or just kind of take their number and hit ’em cleanly. You know, they’re just ignorant. There’s nothing you can really do about that. You can’t let idiots like that get to your head. … My teammates or anybody from Edina, when it has happened against other teams, they’ve been nothing but supportive and helpful.
Q Do any specific incidents stand out in your memory involving racial trouble with opposing players?