Ian Walker of the Everett Silvertips (4) battles for control of the puck in front of the Everett net during a game against the Spokane Chiefs on Nov. 18, 2018, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ian Walker of the Everett Silvertips (4) battles for control of the puck in front of the Everett net during a game against the Spokane Chiefs on Nov. 18, 2018, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Silvertips defenseman Ian Walker retires from the WHL

The 19-year-old has enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s engineering program

Ian Walker didn’t necessarily want to walk away from the Western Hockey League, but an opportunity arose that was too good to pass up.

In a somewhat surprising development, the Everett Silvertips announced Monday that the veteran defenseman was retiring from hockey and enrolling at the University of British Columbia to pursue an engineering degree.

Shortly after the Silvertips’ 2018-19 season ended in April, Walker learned he had been accepted into UBC’s engineering program. After mulling over his options for a couple weeks, he decided to enroll.

“It was a really tough decision, probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my life,” he said. “But I got the opportunity with the program I got into, and I enjoyed my time in the WHL and had some deep playoff runs, but I thought a new chapter in life was something I was ready for. It was just the right time.”

Walker said he will narrow down his specific discipline of engineering after completing a year in school.

“I’m waiting for one to catch my eye,” he said. “I’m going to go into it with an open mind.”

Walker, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, who grew up just two bus stops from UBC’s campus, said he plans to follow the Silvertips closely and will attempt to visit for weekend games when his schedule allows.

“I’m going to follow along as a diehard fan,” he said.

While he’s focusing primarily on school moving forward, Walker is not hanging up his skates for good. He’s helping coach at a hockey school in the summers and there’s a recreation-league hockey team among engineering students at UBC that he plans to join — talk about a ringer.

“I might have to try goalie,” Walker quipped.

Walker, 19, would have been in his fourth year with the Silvertips this season. The left-handed defenseman played in 172 games and tallied 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) over his three-year WHL career. He also played in 36 playoff games, collecting five points (one goal, four assists).

“Certainly we would have loved to have him back, and I was a little disapointed, but I wasn’t surprised,” said Davidson, who added that education was something Walker’s family emphasized throughout his time in Everett.

The veteran defenseman would have been one of five blue-liners returning to the Silvertips in 2019-2020. Even without Walker in the fold, the Silvertips boast an experienced defensive corps. Wyatte Wylie and Jake Christiansen could return as overagers, Gianni Fairbrother is coming off a season that prompted the Montreal Canadiens to take him in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft and Ronan Seeley showed flashes of dynamic talent last year as a rookie.

Prospects Dylan Anderson, Olen Zellweger, Ty Gibson and Aidan Sutter are among the candidates to fill Walker’s spot on the roster.

Fonteyne added to University of Alberta roster

Former Silvertips captain Matt Fonteyne is moving on from professional hockey — for now.

After playing last season with the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League, Fonteyne is listed on the University of Alberta’s roster. This is the last year Fonteyne could enroll in school under his WHL scholarship. WHL alumni are allowed to play one season of professional hockey before their scholarship expires.

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