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All-Star Game

Weber looking forward to hardest shot competition at All-Star Weekend

Canadiens defenseman has won event last three times he's participated

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL -- Shea Weber will load up his composite cannon on Friday in St. Louis, the Montreal Canadiens captain one of the favorites to win the Enterprise NHL Hardest Shot contest as part of the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

And the winner of the event the last three times he's competed wants the others involved to know that he's not doing any last-minute cramming for this test.

"I've heard of guys practicing their shot in the past," Weber said with a laugh. "I've never practiced outside of maybe taking a couple shots in warmup. You can't really simulate the situation, it's more just getting a feel for your stick.

"Playing every second day, some games back-to-back, there's not time to go out there and set up pucks and take an end of the ice to yourself in practice. We'll just see what we've got this year."

Video: Hardest Shot: Weber wins with 102.8 mph slapper

Weber, winner of the event in 2015 and 2016 as a member of the Nashville Predators and most recently in 2017, with the Canadiens, will enter the contest with the hardest shot even before the field is announced. His winning blast in 2015 of 108.5 miles per hour is the second-hardest ever, .3 mph off the record of 108.8 set in 2012 by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who will not participate this year.

It's expected that defenseman John Carlson of the Washington Capitals will try to defend his title; he won with a shot of 102.8 mph last season.

"It's nice to win but all these guys have great shots." Weber said. "You never know what they're going to bring so it's going to be a fun match, whoever's in it."

Chara won the contest five consecutive times from 2007-12. Only Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis has won it more often, crowned seven times between 1991, the year after the competition was introduced, and 2003.

Chara and Weber are historically the biggest bombers in this contest, in which skaters sprint to a puck that's placed 30 feet in front of the net then pound it almost through the mesh. The heavier of each entrant's two shots, provided it hits the target, is ranked against the other participants.

Seventeen times in 24 years, a puck clocked 104 or more miles per hour; Chara and Weber have eight each with Al Iafrate's 1993 winning shot of 105.2 mph joining them on that list, ranked 12th.

Weber knows the 110-mph barrier is out there to be broken, a vulcanized rubber sound barrier, but he doesn't like the odds of it happening.

"That's a really heavy shot," he said. "When Chara and I were going head-to-head, he was just blasting it - 108.8 is an extremely hard shot, I don't know if people realize how hard it is. A guy his size (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) with his strength, I don't know how you get much stronger than that.

"Maybe if they make a stick like those cheating (golf) drivers? That might be the only way. But you never know, it might happen. There's a lot of technique to it as well, not just pure strength."

Shea Weber in his 2007 NHL YoungStars portrait, two years before he played in his first All-Star Game.

 

This will be Weber's seventh trip to the NHL All-Star Game, eighth if you count his participation in the 2007 YoungStars event in Dallas.

His first was as a 23-year-old in the 2009 game held at Montreal's Bell Centre as part of the Canadiens' Centennial celebrations.

Weber would play his All-Star Game high of 22:16 for the Western Conference that year. In all, he has two wins and two losses in traditional games, and is 0-2 in 3-on-3 games, with no goals, eight assists, and is plus-14 with 97:32 ice time, nine shots on goal and six shots blocked.

Four of his assists came in the 2011 All-Star Game, a favorite moment that of being paired on the blue line in Raleigh, North Carolina, with Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom. Together, they finished plus-13 in Team Lidstrom's 11-10 victory.

There have been many other memories, including seeing the handful of Canadiens Hall of Fame icons circulating throughout the 2009 weekend, more than 50 combined Stanley Cup championships to their names.

"I remember how special it was in Montreal in 2009 as a young kid, seeing those legends," Weber recalled. "At the time, I didn't realize all the history of the Canadiens organization but now, being part of this team, it's pretty cool coming full circle."

Shea Weber, in 2018 named the 30th captain in Canadiens history, is the most recent of the portraits in Bell Centre's Alumni Lounge. He's the bottom color painting, beside the 1924-25 globe-crest "World Championship" photo of Howie Morenz taken following the team's first NHL Stanley Cup victory.

 

The Nashville Predators captain would join the Canadiens on June 29, 2016, traded for defenseman P.K. Subban, who on June 22, 2019 was traded by Nashville to the New Jersey Devils.

Weber, a 34-year-old from of Sicamous, British Columbia, was named the 30th captain of the Canadiens on Oct. 1, 2018, and today his portrait hangs in the captains gallery of the team's Bell Centre Alumni Lounge.

Through 50 games this season, Weber is fourth on the team in scoring with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) and is averaging a team-leading 24:19 ice time per game.

As the Canadiens' lone representative in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, Weber will fly on Thursday to St. Louis with his wife, Bailey, their children ages 5, 4 and 1 and a half, his equipment bag and a half-dozen of the Bauer sticks that have been his twig of choice since 2013.

Not that they'd be of much use to anyone else, the flex of just over 120 among the stiffest in use today. And they'll be plucked from his regular stock; where some players switch sticks depending on the situation, Weber relies simply on what he likes.

"I'll just bring extras in case guys ask for one or I give one to a kid," he said.

Weber's last meaningful slap shot of the weekend will be taken Friday at an open net. And the 6-foot-4, 230-pound veteran nicknamed "Man Mountain" will leave his rugged game at home, with no plans to add to his total of zero hits in six All-Star Games.

"The last thing you want to see is somebody getting hurt in this event," he said of the unwritten rule of laying off one-timers from the point. "You want to play hard and everybody wants to win but I don't think there's any point in taking a slap shot and possibly injuring somebody.

"Body checks? You don't want to let a guy slide by, but there aren't many game-changing open-ice hits."

Beginning Monday, when Carlson and the Capitals visit Bell Centre, Weber won't have any such concerns.

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