By Michael Calcutt, Special to All Habs Hockey Magazine
POINTE-CLAIRE, QC. — Dale Weise’s lifelong dream became a reality on February 3rd, 2014, when he was a traded to Montreal for Raphael Diaz. The trade did not make too much of a splash with most fans. It was seen as little more than getting rid of an unused defensemen in order to add depth to the team in case of injury. In retrospect, it ended up being much more. With Diaz now being a healthy scratch for the New York Rangers and Weise forging his place as a stalwart on the Habs fourth line, it can be argued that it was a steal for the Canadiens. Weise is playing his way to a contract offer from the team that he has followed since his childhood, a fantasy come true for the Winnipeg native.
One of the biggest clichés after a trade is that a change of scenery can revitalize a player’s career. Although there is a small amount of truth in the belief, players often remain mired with the same inconsistencies that dogged them in their previous role. Dale Weise was a serviceable player in Vancouver, scoring three goals and adding nine assists in his 44 games this year, but he has matched his goal total in only 17 games in Montreal. It seems the change of scenery has indeed been a positive for the hard working forward. The high point of his time with the team thus far was his overtime goal that allowed the Habs to win their first playoff game of the year. This gave the team momentum and was a pivotal moment in the sweep of the Lightning. The pride and effort that Weise shows comes from not only from his personal work ethic but also because he understands and believes what the CH represents and what it means to true fans.
Any real Hab fan knows about the 24 cups, recognizes the legends of the past and embraces the fanatical devotion that their peers have toward the team. How many kids have stood in their driveway, stick in hand, imagining they are scoring a Stanley Cup winning goal for the Habs? How many have dreamed of walking into the changing room with the images of the pantheon looking down and passing the torch to be carried high? Dale Weise, whose love for the Habs grew along with this love of the game, has thought of all of these things.
The western support for the Canadiens is well known. Whenever the team visits Manitoba, Alberta or British Columbia, the number of Habs jerseys in the stands rivals that of the home team. When the visiting team scores, the cheers are deafening to a point that any home ice advantage is eradicated. When there were only two professional teams in Canada, Montreal, being the stronger flashier team, got a more of the support. This love for the team was passed on to subsequent and thus the love affair continues: a relationship that became a part of Dale Weise and his love for the game.
Most Canadian boys playing organized hockey dream of playing in the NHL and if they can, for their favourite team. As Dale Weise rose through the ranks of the Western Hockey League, he showed his prowess as a solid two way forward with pro level speed and adequate size. He could throw a good hit and defend himself or teammates if required. These skills allowed him to be drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 entry draft by the Rangers. The first part of his dream was fulfilled.
Weise toiled in the AHL for three years, putting up solid numbers that granted him a call up to the big club in 2011. He was given limited opportunities under John Tortorella and after getting no goals or assists in a 10 game trial, the Rangers and their coach cooled on Weise’s future in New York. He was placed on waivers prior to the 2011 season; Vancouver liked his potential and picked him up. For the first time, new hope was injected into his career. Weise was used to stabilize the fourth line with the Canucks and became an important part of the team, until the beginning of the 2013-14.
During the off-season the Canucks hired John Tortorella to be the new head coach. Weise had already dealt with the former Rangers boss and, although he suited up for 44 of the Canucks first 57 games and chipped in with three goals and nine assists, the writing was on the wall and he was let go for Diaz. Weise’s dream was now complete. He was not only an NHL player but now he was playing for the team whose colours still adorn his childhood bedroom at his parents; the red, white and blue of the Montreal Canadiens.
The love for the jersey comes through when Weise plays. He never takes a shift off, seeming to want to prove that he is worthy of wearing the logo that he worshiped throughout his life. These are the intangibles that make or break a trade. Marc Bergevin’s pro-scouting staff might not have looked at this aspect of the player’s background, but, if Weise’s passion is any indication, it should be a criterion that is examined more regularly.
Pride in a logo might seem like a trivial matter, but when you are dealing with an iconic image like that of the CH the opposite is true. The history behind the crest and its importance as a source of identity and pride for hockey and Montrealers alike make it much more than a simple H encircled by a C. When the depth of the image is understood by the person privileged enough to wear it, the result will be elevated play and sacrifice for the good of the team. Dale Weise has shown this in spades since his arrival. Let’s hope Bergevin does the right thing and signs Weise to a long term deal and keeps searching for those players who love the Habs as true fans and realize that there is no better place on the planet to play hockey and no better team to represent.