WINNIPEG – If Dale Weise has some extra jump in his game on Thursday night at the MTS Centre, there’s a good reason why.
For the first time since joining the Canadiens last February, Weise will don the colors of the CH in front of family and friends in his hometown. It’s a game the 26-year-old lifelong Habs fan has had circled on his calendar since the NHL schedule was released last summer. Now, with his team entering the tilt sitting atop the League’s general standings with 100 points through 74 games, it’s finally here.
|A young Dale Weise always had dreams of suiting up for the Canadiens. |
“It’s going to be pretty cool. The last time I was there was with Vancouver. I really didn’t get the full effect. I played like a few shifts, so it was a disappointing day,” offered Weise, who played just under five minutes in his one and only trip to the Manitoban capital in an NHL uniform last January, three days before being dealt to the Canadiens. “This is something that’s far more special for me, playing in front of friends and family. Everybody knows I grew up a Canadiens fan. They were always Canadiens fans, too. It’s going to be cool to play at home, for sure.”
It’s safe to say Weise’s cheering section will be especially strong for the Habs’ lone visit of the regular season to Jets territory. The five-year NHL veteran will have plenty of people in attendance to support not only him, but the team, too.
“My folks will be there, so will [my wife] Lauren’s family. I’ll have a lot of friends there. My grandma and grandpa will be there. My brother, his wife and his family. A bunch of other friends will be in the stands, too, so I’ll be playing for free that day,” cracked Weise, who will be suiting up for his 89th career regular season game as a member of the Canadiens on Thursday night. “It’s well worth it, though. We only get to go there once a year, so it’s an experience I’m really looking forward to.”
As are Weise’s parents, Miles and Barb, who watched their son work his way through Winnipeg’s minor hockey programs growing up, before he joined the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos prior to getting his pro career started back in 2008-09.
“I think it will probably be the most special game they’ve seen me play up to this point in my career. Growing up Habs fans, we always talked about it when I was younger. I told them that I wanted to play in the NHL and to play for the Canadiens. To actually be doing it at home in front of them is going to be a pretty special game for all of us,” confided Weise, who boasts a career-high 10 goals, 28 points and a plus-21 differential in 71 games with the Canadiens during the 2014-15 campaign. “I think my mom will wear a Canadiens jersey. My dad will probably have his Habs hat on. He’ll try to be pretty low key with it.”
That could prove tough given the MTS Centre’s reputation for being one of the more boisterous buildings in the NHL. While it might be the smallest rink in the League with a capacity of 15,004 spectators, its ability to fire up players and fans alike is well-documented.
“I’ll be amped up. It will be at the top. I know the Jets are battling for a playoff spot. All of my friends and family cheer for the Jets when they’re not cheering for us, so they’ll be cheering for us that night. It’s a great atmosphere in that building. There’s no doubt about it,” offered Weise, who played his 250th career NHL game on Tuesday night in the Canadiens’ 3-2 overtime loss in Nashville. “Winnipeg is a very passionate city. It’s a blue-collar city. The rink might be small, but it’s extremely loud. I know when we play against them, it will be real loud. There are a lot of Canadiens fans everywhere. It’s going to be exciting.”
Fortunately, the wait is almost over.
“It’s been a dream come true playing for Montreal, my favorite team,” concluded Weise. “I went to a couple of Winnipeg Jets games when I was younger and stuff like that, but to actually be playing at home in Winnipeg, playing for the Montreal Canadiens against my hometown team, you just couldn’t write a better script than that.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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