Konrad Walberger, a 14-year-old from Manlius, has been selected to live in Buffalo to play and train with the Buffalo Junior Sabres team. (Submitted Photo)
By Hayleigh Gowans
Playing hockey has always been a passion for 14-year-old Konrad Walberger, and recently the teen got a unique chance to move to Buffalo to play and train with the Buffalo Junior Sabres team as a goalie.
Konrad, of Manlius, has been skating since he was about three and started playing hockey when he was six. Though his interested were in playing goalie, he has had experience playing many other positions throughout the years and has participated in many different hockey programs including the Morrisville Youth Hockey program, the Utica Junior Comets, the Syracuse Nationals Youth Hockey program and the Fayetteville-Manlius Summer Hockey team. The Walbergers found out that when Konrad was about 12 or 13, recruiters from the Buffalo Junior Sabres had their eye on him and eventually he was invited to try out for the team in the spring of 2017.
Konrad made the cut and in August moved out to Buffalo to live with a billet (host) family to train and play for the Buffalo Junior Sabres Bantam Major team in the Tier 1 AAA level.
“It is great, I feel very fortunate. It is a great team. I am already playing some of the best teams in North America,” said Konrad. “It’s like a long sleepover. The family is really nice and makes sure I am doing well in school and in the rink.”
Julia Walberger, Konrad’s mother, said she thinks this is a great opportunity for Konrad to fully immerse himself in the hockey community and learn what it takes to become a successful hockey player. One thing Julia said attracted her to the Buffalo Junior Sabres program was that the total development approach the coaches take on, which includes intensive hockey practice supplemented with a focus on teaching players how to maintain good nutrition, health and school habits.
“It really seems like the [Buffalo] Junior Sabres are looking to build the best hockey program in the country,” said Julia. “Konrad has given up so much of his young life to make it to this point… I am so proud of him; I know how much work he has put in to this.”
Though Konrad is living full-time in Buffalo, the Walbergers have made the effort to attend his games and some practices in order to help with the transition Konrad is making.
Being involved in hockey takes a lot of commitment, Konrad has learned, but some of the biggest lessons he said he has learned include, “how to be organized, how to get along with people and how to get your homework done in the car!”
For the future, Konrad hopes to go on to play Division I hockey for a team in college, and has dreams to eventually make it to the professional National Hockey League.
To learn more about the Buffalo Junior Sabres, go to buffalojuniorsabres.com.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.