Laval Rocket forward Dale Weise may have been reluctant about starting the season in the American Hockey League. But he’s since had a change of heart.
The 31 year old was left to start the 2019-20 season with the Rocket after being cut by the Montreal Canadiens during their training camp. Weise says he’s overcome the frustration of not starting the season with the team that’s given him the best years of his NHL career.
“To be honest with you, I thought I had a really good camp in Montreal,” he said. “I didn’t really expect to be here [in Laval]. Once you kind of get over that and put your ego aside and get back to work, I’m enjoying it. I think we’ve got a great group of guys here. I’m relied on as a leader which I don’t take that lightly and I’m having some fun with it.”
It wasn’t nearly as fun during an October 25th game in Hartford against the Wolf Pack. Weise was scratched from the lineup and didn’t take part in his team’s 2-1 overtime loss. Before the team returned home, Weise and Laval head coach Joel Bouchard had a talk. A talk that Weise considers to be the “most honest conversation” he’s ever had with a coach or anyone in management during his professional career.
“I got a chance to really voice where I thought I was in my career, where before you didn’t really want to say too much and you didn’t want to upset anybody. You didn’t want him to think something of you,” Weise said. “I kind of got to lay everything on the table. Tell him where I’m at mentally, physically. And since that I think we just both have a really good understanding of each other.”
“His reaction has been really good,” Bouchard said. “The way he’s bought into what we’re doing. I think he’s finding his game back. His attitude has been great. His investment, his attention to detail has been way better. I can be demanding and hard on the guy. I won’t accept some stuff but I have to tip my hat to him and the other guys who are buying in to what we’re doing and now they’re seeing the result.”
Since the talk, Weise feels he’s turned a corner. His play has brought energy and some production while in the lineup. He even had a three-point night against the Toronto Marlies back on November 2 during a 6-5 shootout victory.
“It might be the best thing to happen to him, to reset.” Bouchard said.
Weise’s approach over younger players has been to encourage them when he can. While he admits he isn’t the best at helping with x’s and o’s, he has no problem trying to provide a jolt of confidence for his younger teammates.
“I think just some of the little stuff that’ll help guys moving forward. Whether it’s a long AHL career or an NHL career,” Weise said. “I’m the kind of guy that can kind of read when people need a little pat on the back, which doesn’t happen a lot in pro hockey.”
One player who’s been taken under Weise’s wing is Habs prospect Josh Brook. The 20 year old is still cementing his footing during his first full season with the Rocket, but the youngster contributed with a game-winning goal over the Cleveland Monsters Saturday.
“I was pumped,” Weise said. “For a young defenceman. An offensive guy like himself who hasn’t had a lot of offence lately. You start forcing it, you start pushing it. It’s a tough transition to go from junior where you’re the man. You’re playing a ton, you’re on the ice every second shift and you’re putting up points. It’s a little different when you go to pro.”
“We always talk and chat.” Brook said. “He’s always pumped me up. He’s been awesome too. Just at random times he’s like ‘Good job, keep it up’. He’s always talking to you and keeping you in the game.”
“I just try to make sure he’s having a good time,” Weise said. “Make sure he’s having a good time and just mentally in a good spot.”
That doesn’t mean that some veterans haven’t been in awe of him either. Consider the case of Alex Belzile, who watched Weise and the Canadiens battle the Boston Bruins during the 2014 and 2015 playoff runs. Belzile has even spoken to Weise about those battles while on the team bus.
“He’s a great guy, honestly. He’s a great human being.” The Rocket forward said. “I think he cares about us and he’s a great guy. He talks to everybody the same way. I was watching him when I was younger against Boston and that big rivalry. It’s pretty fun right now that I can play with him. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s been there. He knows a lot. So I think that’s a good example for the forwards when you see a guy like him going hard every night.”
“He’s got a presence. The guy’s played in the NHL for a long time. He’s making a decent amount of money because he earned it.” Bouchard said. “They don’t give you those contracts because you have beautiful eyes or a nice car. That being said, it’s a double-edged sword because guys will look up to you. So he has a responsibility to do everything right.”