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Weber, Maguire share beautiful friendship

The bond between Shea Weber and Mike Maguire is special in more ways than one

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

NASHVILLE - When Shea Weber returns to Music City, setting aside some quality time for Mike Maguire is always a top priority.

The pair first met a decade ago through Best Buddies Tennessee during Weber's tenure with the Predators. 

According to its website, "Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

Maguire, 51, is a decorated Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome. 

Mike's mother Dee fondly recalls the events that led to Weber - and fellow Predators teammate Pekka Rinne - meeting her son for the first time and beginning an incredible friendship that would blossom in the years to come.

"Barry Trotz [whose son Nolan has Down syndrome] was the coach back then and he had a fundraiser one night. My daughter had heard about Best Buddies and she thought it would be a great idea for Mike to get involved. We went to the event and Mike won one of the door prizes, which was four tickets to a Predators game. He went over to Barry to thank him for the tickets, and Barry said he would leave Mike a bracelet at will call so he could meet some of the players after the game," recounted Dee. "That's when he met Shea and Pekka and they asked Mike if he wanted to be their 'Best Buddy.'"

Mike quickly accepted the invitation, and the rest is history, so to speak.

In addition to purchasing season tickets on his behalf so he could watch them ply their trade night after night, Weber and Rinne made a point of being a constant presence in Mike's life away from the rink as well.

"When Shea was here, Shea and Pekka would take him out to the Vanderbilt games, take him out to lunch and take him out to dinner. They came to his birthday party, and they even walked with him when Best Buddies had their 5K. They came out every time," mentioned Dee. "They are just wonderful, wonderful guys."

Missing Shea, but staying connected

When Weber was dealt to the Canadiens in June 2016, Mike had a rather tough time coping with the news at first.

Dee remembers her son struggling to come to terms with his departure as the 2016-17 campaign began.

"Mike really, really misses Shea. It was kind of unfortunate timing when he left. It was about a month-and-a-half after Mike's dad died, so it was like two big people were missing in his life at the time," she explained. "I remember Shea had won an award [the 2016 Mark Messier Leadership Award] and Mike was excited because he'd won and he wanted to congratulate him. When we went to the games, he asked - 'Where's Shea?' I had to remind him that he'd been traded. He was very, very upset." 

But, Weber wasn't about to let his longstanding relationship with Mike and the Maguires simply fade away because he was Montreal-bound.

While Mike isn't able to spend precious time with Weber anywhere nearly as often as he used to, the Habs' captain stays in close touch.

"Shea keeps texting him and they FaceTime, too. He thinks of Shea and he texts him, and Shea answers almost immediately. He always answers Mike when he texts," confirmed Dee. "He's so happy that Shea keeps in contact with him and is a part of his life. Mike doesn't have a lot of friends because he's one of the older Special Olympics athletes. He counts Shea as one of his good friends. He's been a leader in Mike's life, too. Mike looks up to him."

Video: NSH@MTL: Weber wires home quick shot through traffic

This past Christmas, Mike received a very special gift from Weber. It's one he'll cherish forever.

"Shea sent Mike a captain's jersey with the hook on the back and the big C on the front. Mike was so excited because he wears it when he watches the Canadiens games," said Dee. "He'll put on Shea's jersey one night, and then another night he'll have Pekka's on watching the Predators. He wears both jerseys and talks about Shea and Pekka all the time. We feel fortunate."

That isn't the only piece of Habs gear in Mike's collection, of course. Weber made sure of that.

After his first game back at Bridgestone Arena in January 2017, the 33-year-old Sicamous, BC native gave Mike a Canadiens jersey and a special T-shirt that has since become an integral part of his game attire.

"If you could see Mike's face when Shea gave that to him, it was just amazing. Mike actually wears that T-shirt - a blue T-shirt with the Canadiens emblem on it - under Pekka's jersey when he goes to the games," described Dee. "That way, Mike says - 'I have my two best buddies with me.'" 

A special gesture

The fact that Mike sports his coveted Habs T-shirt game after game means the world to the veteran defenseman.

"Dee actually texted me one day and told me about that. That's special because that means a lot that he's still thinking of me even though I'm not there with the team and not even in that city," explained Weber, who will be suiting up for his 900th career NHL game on Thursday night. "That's a pretty special feeling because I know I think about him constantly."

There's a lot about Mike that impresses Weber. 

In addition to his tremendous Special Olympics resume and incredible medal haul, Weber believes Mike is a remarkable human being.

"His energy is unbelievable. Just being around him and how happy he is and honest he is, Mike is just a really good person," praised Weber. "He's goofy and fun, but at the same time, he's very heartfelt. Everything he says is very heartfelt and honest. He's an exceptional man."

With that in mind, Weber sees the bond between the two of them continuing to grow as time marches on.

"He's become family to me. It's a relationship for me that's never going to end," insisted Weber. "We only get to go there once a year, so it's tough to get that personal-in-life connection, but being able to stay in touch by phone has helped a lot. Thank goodness for technology, and with FaceTime I can still see him. When I'm done playing, I'll get more opportunities to go down there and visit the family and spend time with them."

Hard at work

Mike has been a proud Best Buddies employee for the last six years.

He's the office assistant, tasked with handling a variety of communications needs, including answering phones and writing thank you notes. He also serves as a Best Buddies ambassador as well.

It should come as no surprise that Mike's workspace is essentially dedicated to both Weber and Rinne, who continue to support and encourage him in everything he does.

"The best part is being his friend," said Mike, of Weber's efforts to stay in touch since departing Nashville. "It feels like I'm a part of his Montreal team."

You certainly are, Mike! We're proud to have you on board.

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