The inaugural Dale Weise era in Laval lasted all of an hour and a half on Monday morning. All in a good day’s work.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Weise said. “One quick practice and back up. I’m so pumped. I’m so excited.”
Not long after Weise participated in drills with his AHL teammates, the man they call “Dutch Gretzky” was called up to the Montreal Canadiens. No, referring to a bottom-six forward with 120 career NHL points as a fan favourite is not hyperbole. Not in this city.
Can you think of another NHL city where a so-called cult hero, practising for an AHL affiliate team, would garner these reactions?
YO YO YO https://t.co/zZ4YwqOpFJ— David Auger (69/84) (@MetalDave01) February 11, 2019
IT'S REAL. https://t.co/JRFxsi5bQu— Ian (@BoisvertIan) February 11, 2019
The is back https://t.co/UvNWVl2ssa— Wowza Mᴀx (@woumaxx) February 11, 2019
“Cult hero, I don’t know about that,” Weise said. “That might be a little much.”
It’s okay to be modest, but the truth is there are many Montrealers who would buy Weise a beer following his playoff runs with the Habs in 2014 and 2015. He scored timely goals, wasn’t afraid to be physical, and drew the ire — not to mention a death threat — from then-Boston Bruin Milan Lucic.
He is not Saku Koivu or Jean Béliveau, but Weise’s seemingly down-to-earth persona has made him a fan favourite among Canadiens fans. And the forward loves the city back.
“The way the team treats you, the fans,” Weise said. “Everything about this organization is where I want to be.”
Since leaving the Habs in 2016, Weise hasn’t been nearly as productive. He scored a goal during Chicago’s playoff run following his trade to the Windy City before catching on with the Philadelphia Flyers. He stayed up with the Flyers during his first two seasons, but he saw AHL time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season amidst changes behind the bench and in the front office.
“It’s been a crazy year. I thought I got off to a really good start in Philly. I had a really good start to the year and then coaches get fired, GMs get fired. Plans change.”
Sometimes you don’t see them coming. Much like this weekend when Weise was training at Lehigh Valley’s facilities before a coach approached him with a tweet.
“He was like, ‘Weiser’, did you hear this?” Weise said. “I was like, ‘did I hear what?’ And then he showed me on his phone that I was traded so that’s how I found out, which was pretty wild. It’s just a crazy era where Twitter knows guys are traded before they do.”
Plans, and players, have also changed for the Canadiens since he was last in the city. Only four of his Habs teammates remain from his time. Weise has also played with Andrew Shaw, when the two were in Chicago. Despite the changes, it doesn’t faze Weise.
“It honestly feels like I never left. I watched the game [against the Leafs]. Watched them a couple times this year. I really, really like their team. I hope I can add a little something to that.”
Weise says his experience with Lehigh Valley was “humbling” yet “quick”. It lasted just three games, where he scored a goal in his first appearance. With the call-up, he won’t have to ride the bus in the minor leagues again — for now. He also won’t need his number 21, white home Laval Rocket jersey just yet.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since I came in the league to prove people wrong,” Weise said. “I’ve continued to prove people wrong and I’m going to continue to prove people wrong. I’m happy again for the opportunity, I know Marc Bergevin believes in me and I can’t say enough, when you have people that believe in you, how far that goes for your confidence.”