Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shea Weber more than a big shooter

By Larry Wigge

It went from Ryan Johansen to Roman Josi to Shea Weber quick and easy. Almost like around the horn in baseball for a double play.

Weber was waiting to crank another bomb. He went to one knee before letting go with a slapper-heard-round-the-world high into the net over the catching shoulder of Calgary goaltender Kari Ramo.

It came on a Nashville power play with 2:23 remaining in the second period of a game won by the Predators 2-1 January 27 just before the All-Star break.

Shea Weber's shot is loud and lethal. His bodychecks are noisy and downright nasty. Simply put, there's nothing quiet about the way he plays. The 6-3, 213-pounder from Sicamous, B.C., makes an impact at either end of the rink.

At the break, Weber had 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points. But he and fellow Nashville defenseman Roman Josi show a production on the Predators power play the makes them a team to watch. Weber has nine power-play goals and Josi six.

At last season All-Star skills competition, Weber let of his rocket shots fly at 108.5 mph. It's the second-hardest shot in the history of the All-Star skills competition, narrowly missing the record of 108.8 mph set by Zdeno Chara.

"I was surprised," Weber said. "I knew I got it. It's tough. You never know how hard it is until it registers on the gun. I got pretty much all I could into and you just hope for the best."

He watched and studied Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.

"I remember watching Al MacInnis shoot the puck," Weber recalled. "I remember watching his technique. His weight shift. His hands. Everything."

For a moment anyway, Shea allowed himself to think back ... and then ahead. He thought back to his dad purchasing an old net from the local arena in Sicamous, and turning his boys loose. They'd practice for hours and hours.

"My dad brought home the plywood that would serve as our launching pad to practice our shooting," Weber said with a big smile on his face. "That kept me and my brother and my friends busy. We would have all kinds of competitions. Me and my brother would tie cans up for targets. In the winters, we'd flood the yard to make a little rink and work on it that way. I remember my mom would have a heckuva time getting us to come in to eat. Usually, the food was cold when we finally went in the house, but we didn't care. We were ready to go back outside after we got a bite to eat."

James, Shea's father, was a sawmill worker. Tracy, his mom, was a hairdresser.

Tracy Weber, who dedicated her every waking day to her second chance at life. Shea was 15 when his mom started to have headaches. An MRI revealed a large tumor on her brain.

It didn’t take long after her last round of treatments before the pain subsided and life returned to normal for Tracy Weber, who dedicated her every waking day to her second chance at life. She never once failed to appreciate the opportunity to see her two boys grow into young men.

Further tests, however, revealed the cancer had spread to an inoperable place on her brain and chemo was no longer an option. Tracy was 47 when she died nine months ago.

Shea said, "Whether it was driving us to hockey practice at six in the morning when dad was working or up in the stands cheering us on in freezing cold arenas, she was an inspiration and instrumental in getting us to believe we could play hockey and making sure we just love what we do.

"I know she's still watching from up above cheering me on and getting mad at me when I make mistake."

Shea Weber hasn't made many mistakes ... but he has had his little battles to overcome.

The determined young defenseman had to overcome one more little problem -- he was just 5-9 when he went to a tryout help by the Prince George Raiders of the Western Hockey League when he was 15 and was sent home. Between the ages of fourteen and fifteen, Weber grew 5 inches, from 5-9 to 6-2. That just made Shea stronger of body and mind and increased his desire and work ethic to show the skeptics he could excel at any level.

Still, scouts were not sure -- Weber was chosen by the Predators in the second round, 49th pick overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

"You have to know Shea," said former coach Barry Trotz. "There are no hidden agendas with him. He is well grounded. Just a kid from Sicamous. No frills. No outward display."

Trotz told Weber he didn't want him to change after his last contract.

"I told him, 'I don't want you to change,'" Trotz added. "Your pay scale changed, but you don't have to any different than you have done for us. You don't have to be twice the player you were last season. Be yourself. That's all."

This is more than just a Sicomous to an NHL prospect story.

"I played forward and defense until my second year of bantam," he said of his 15th birthday, when he was a slight 5-9. "I was cut from my first junior team in Prince Albert. But ...

"Somehow, I was put on the Kelowna list -- and the rest in history."

The best advice I ever got was from my parents?

"I don't know how many times they both told me, 'It doesn't matter where you come from ... if you work hard everything will be OK,' " Shea recalled.

"Coming from a small town, I guess there were questions. But ..."

Now, Shea Weber looks back at an NHL career.

He's asked, what is the hardest player for you to play against and what makes playing against them such a challenge?

"I guess I'd have to go with Sidney Crosby because he's such a dynamic player," Weber said. "He's so good with the puck. It's almost impossible to knock him off the puck. He's a complete player. He can do everything you'd ever want to do with a hockey puck."

And, what do you like better, making a bit hit or ripping a big slap shot?

"Hmm, tough choice, but probably a big hit," Shea said. "I've always enjoyed to get in the nice big collision and make the other guys think twice about coming down ice my way."

The Calgary Flames might think otherwise, remembering the rocket shot Shea Weber fired over the shoulder of Kari Ramo.

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