Stephen Weiss spent the summer preparing to make 2006-07 his year. Will it be?
He looked so innocent. With his pale-white face pressed against the frosted glass, dark blue hoodie pulled over unkempt hair and eyes wide like teacup saucers, this adolescent is seemingly watching hockey practice in a vacuum.
Beyond the six-inch thick glass, a motley crew of hockey players is running through a series of drills, designed to energize sets of legs that have been mostly dormant for the summer. Most of the players are local amateurs, with some college and minor players and a few NHL guys sprinkled in. Among them are Panthers stars Olli Jokinen and Todd Bertuzzi, and new Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
But the boy behind the looking glass isn't concerned with them. He has his eyes on someone more his size. Directly in his line of sight is a medium sized, fresh faced young man, barely distinguishable from the amateurs skating with him, save for the blue Panthers practice jersey that falls across his shoulders.
But then he takes off, accelerating down the ice with a burst of speed that makes the boy's eyes widen even further. He follows as the blue jersey picks up the puck at the red line, blows past a hapless defender, and deftly slides the puck over Luongo's shoulder and into the upper corner of the net.
The boy catches a closer glimpse of the player's face, looks up quizzically at his father standing beside him and asks, "Dad...is that Stephen Weiss?"
The father's answer is quick and assured, "Don't think so son...Stephen Weiss isn't really that fast."
What this father-son duo found out later, is exactly what opposing National Hockey League defenses are going to find out once the preseason gets going on Sept. 17 – that is Stephen Weiss, and he is really that fast.
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