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This article was published 1/5/2015 (1150 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For most players, a trip to the Stanley Cup final is the goal. A career-defining moment to be treasured. Dale Weise is hoping he can also mix a little revenge into a championship chase.
We caught up with the Winnipeg native just after a practice in Montreal earlier this week as his Canadiens were preparing for a second-round opponent, now revealed to be the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Weise grew up in North Kildonan and played his minor hockey out of Gateway Recreation Centre. A brilliant time, he said, but for one impediment — Jonathan Toews.
"I played against Jonathan Toews growing up, and I’ve lost a lot of championships to him when we were younger," said Weise.
"He’s still winning championships. He’s a pretty good guy to play against. He had the upper hand growing up and he’s still got the upper hand with two Cups. So I’m still chasing him.
"It would be nice to join him this year in the final. I think Chicago has got a great team in the West, so I think that would be pretty cool."
The 26-year-old Weise had his best NHL season to date this year with 10 goals and 19 assists in the first year of a two-year contract paying him $1 million per season.
He’d be an unrestricted free agent next July and, if the Habs let him walk away, he’ll be in demand as a bottom- six forward with speed, scoring punch and lots of edge.
"Weise is a good skater, a guy who has to play with a certain level of intensity and, with that intensity, creates some space for his teammates," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told the Montreal Gazette this season after promoting him to the top line in a successful mid-season attempt to spark Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec. Weise moved up and scored three goals and three assists in six games before shuttling back to the third line.
Known as both the Dutch Gretzky (he had 48 points in 19 games with the Tilburg Trappers during the lockout in 2012-13) and as the guy Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic menaced with the following line: "I’m going to (bleeping) kill you next year," during a post-playoff series handshake session, Weise is becoming known as a clutch playoff performer.
In 28 career playoff games, he has scored five goals and four assists, including the tying and overtime-winning goals in Game 3 of Montreal’s opening-round series with the Ottawa Senators.
Four of Weise’s playoff goals have been game-winners.
Weise was exuberant on the phone, asking questions about Winnipeg and wondering aloud if this is the year for the Habs.
"There’s so much to the playoffs that I love. I think every building is so excited, there’s so much hype in every game, everything means something and every shift is important," he said. "Every level I’ve played at, I think I’ve always scored at a higher rate in the playoffs than I have in the regular season. I love the pressure, I want to be out there when the game is on the line and I feel I can make a difference at those times."
Weise is married to Winnipegger Lauren Raban and he returns home to spend the summers near his parents, Miles and Barb, as well as his brother, Derrick.
Weise cut off a question about who he is as a player and a person.
"I give all the credit to my parents. I watched my brother, who is two years older than me, play hockey and that drove me into it. But my mom and dad are very blue-collar people and very hard working," he said.
"I got my hard work from them. The main thing they drilled into me was, ‘If you’re not going to be the most skilled guy out there, make sure you’re working as hard as you can’ and I’ve used that my whole career. The summers and the off-seasons, I train as hard as I can and that’s where I made a lot of leaps as a younger guy. To this day I try to work as hard as I can every day."
Weise found himself near a TV during the last week of the regular season, watching what was happening in his hometown.
"I saw the moment when the Jets clinched the playoff spot and everyone was on Portage and Main. When we were on the road, I made the boys watch the Jets games with me. I pump Winnipeg’s tires all the time, when I’m not pumping our own.
"I love the team, they’ve got a great team and I was very proud of the fans in the city."
Not every player can be Jonathan Toews and Weise simply isn’t in that stratosophere. The one thing they have in common is they get the most out of what they have. Not a bad trait for a superstar and an even more important one for a grinder.