BROSSARD - Dale Weise's postgame ritual is proof positive that small gestures really can go a long way.
Whenever the 31-year-old right-winger suits up for the Canadiens, he pockets a warmup puck for his six-year-old son, Hunter.
Weise brings the puck home and places it near Hunter's school gear, along with a hand-written note letting him know that he's been thinking about him.
That way, Hunter has a nice surprise when he wakes up in the morning before starting his day.
"It's just a little thing to make him feel important and special, because we don't get to spend a lot of time together," explained Weise, referencing the daily grind of the NHL's regular-season schedule. "I don't see him a lot on game days at home, so I leave him little notes. Then, we also travel a lot. I feel like I haven't seen him in two months. It's been tough."
Weise, of course, was recalled by the Canadiens from the AHL's Laval Rocket on New Year's Day.
Admittedly, the itinerary change has altered his daily routine with the eldest of his four children.
"In the American League, we played a lot on weekends, so I would take him to school in the mornings because the timing worked out. I'd drop him off and then go to the rink. Now, rest is a little more important and the schedule's a little different," confided Weise, following Friday's practice at the Bell Sports Complex. "My daughter, Jordana, I see a lot. She's not in school. I see my twins a lot, too. But Hunter's a busy man, even on weekends. He plays hockey on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:00 a.m., so it's kind of hard for him to come to our games at night."
Weise says Hunter boasts a "pretty good collection" of warmup pucks at home right now.
He keeps them safe in a special container.
"We have a huge circular bin, probably two feet around and three feet high. It's in his room and it's full of pucks," described Weise, who has appeared in 509 games over the course his NHL career, including 180 with Montreal. "He's going to have something to look back on when he gets older. He can see the games that I played. I can even look at the pucks and kind of tell you the good things that happened in the games. It's really cool. There are pucks in there from the last time I was with Montreal, too. It's a pretty cool keepsake going forward."
Apparently, Hunter's interest in hitting the ice is at an all-time high.
Weise has noticed a major switch in that regard after Hunter battled through injury last season.
"I put him into it last year and then he had a freak accident and broke his nose, so he didn't really get to play. This is kind of the first year he's playing hockey. Especially being in Canada, this is like the third year for a lot of kids, so he's a little bit behind. But, he loves it. He's a non-stop mini-stick guy at home. He's playing the video game. It's been really cool to see the transition," explained Weise. "Last year, he could care less about skating. Now, he's just absolutely obsessed with it."
That doesn't necessarily mean that Hunter will be following in his father's footsteps, though.
The Grade 1 student might be heading in a completely different direction career-wise a few years down the road.
"I wanted to be a hockey player from the time I was four years old. That's all I thought about. He's kind of a different guy. He likes watching these surgery shows and he told me he wants to be a doctor when he's older. He's really into school," confirmed Weise. "He loves "Dr. Pimple Popper." That's like his favorite show. He's right into it. He also watches "Botched." It's interesting for a six-year old. He's got his own personality and his own interests, and I encourage that."
The 10-year NHL veteran couldn't be prouder of the young man Hunter is becoming, and he's looking forward to seeing what the future has in store.
"He's such a unique kid. He's really caring. He's really passionate. He's just a kind soul. It's a great quality. I could talk about that kid for days. I'm so proud of him," concluded Weise. "I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. When I first got traded here, he was three months old. It was the one kid that we had, and now he's a big boy. He's almost ¾ the size of me now, he's in school, and he has all his activities. It's crazy how quick the time flies."