So to try to give himself the best possible chance to making the New York Rangers, the right wing changed his diet and worked with a trainer, Nate Rubin, for the first time this summer while home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and reported to training this week stronger, thanks largely to eight pounds of muscle mass.
“We set up our own thing and went one-on-one all summer, and I think it really helped me,” Weise said Tuesday while watching others scrimmage at the Madison Square Garden training facility. “Normally I work in a group, but this time I worked one-on-one with (Rubin). I’m leaner than ever. I’m stronger than ever. And I’m a little bit heavier, which I feel good about because I was getting stronger but not really losing my speed.
“After playing in the NHL last season, if I want to play the style I want I felt I had to get a little stronger, and I think I did that over the summer. It’ll probably get a little more physical as we get rolling into the exhibition games, but it has felt pretty good so far.”
Weise, who ended last season at 205 pounds but is now at 213, will be in the lineup when the Rangers open a rigorous preseason schedule Wednesday night at 7 against the New Jersey Devils in Albany, N.Y; home of the Devils’ AHL affiliate. But several players who played for the Connecticut Whale last season or could be in Hartford season will be action, including goalie Cam Talbot, defensemen Michael Del Zotto, Tim Erixon and Brendan Bell and forwards John Mitchell, Carl Hagelin, Andre Deveaux and Ryan Bourque, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. Others playing include standout goalie Henrik Lundqvist, defenseman Steve Eminger, pesky Sean Avery and former Wolf Pack players Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov,
Weise is battling fellow wings Mats Zuccarello, Chad Kolarik and Hagelin for one of the final few open spots on the Rangers roster. Centers Mitchell and Kris Newbury are also in the center mix, depending on whether the Rangers decide to play second-year pro Derek Stepan in the middle or at wing, which he did a few times last season.
Zuccarello and Newbury also did extensive training in the summer. Zuccarello worked out with Rangers center Brian Boyle and former Olympic medalist Barbara Underwood, the team’s skating guru. Newbury worked out with former Whale strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Goodman at the Champion Skating Center in Cromwell.
Weise was encouraged Tuesday when he was put on a line with Boyle and newcomer Mike Rupp, who won’t play against his former team Wednesday night. The first two days of scrimmages, Weise was alongside Bourque and newcomer Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. Bourque and Audy-Marchessault excelled in last week’s prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., where the Rangers lost 5-2 in the finals to the more experienced Buffalo Sabres.
“It’s a big line, and we call kind of play similar styles,” Weise said of his Tuesday pairing. “I think it’s good that they’re giving me a look on some different lines and try to check out some combinations.”
Weise, a fourth-round pick in 2008, said he thinks he has a decent shot to stick with the Rangers, though there’s little margin for error.
“If you look at their roster, they have a lot of good, young guys, and I just want to be a part of it,” Weise said. “And they’re building something special with the core guys that they love to talk about (Lundqvist, Dubinsky, captain Ryan Callahan and All-Star defenseman Marc Staal). There a couple of guys battling for one or two spots, and I’m taking it day-to-day and game-to-game and just try to do what I can to make an impression and show them a little more than I did in the 10 games last season.”
Weise was scoreless with 19 penalty minutes in the 10 games but earned some notoriety when he fought Philadelphia Flyers’ tough guy Daniel Carcillo in his NHL debut in the Wachovia Center. Weise also had 18 goals, 20 assists and 73 penalty minutes in 47 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack/Whale while battling a series of injuries that began even before the season even began.
“Knock on wood, it’s nice not to be playing with any broken fingers,” Weise said with a smile. “Last year things started bothering after a fight with (Marcus) Foligno. I didn’t really say anything because I’m not a guy who’s going to complain about a little stuff like that, but it continued to get worse as I played the first two games. Then I got into a fight in the second game, which didn’t help. I was out for month and then came back, played three games and broke my finger, so it was kind of a whirlwind start. I’m lucky to stay healthy so far this year.”
Weise hopes he can follow in the footsteps of Boyle and former Wolf Pack defenseman Michael Sauer. Boyle, a first-round pick (26th overall) of the Los Angeles Kings in 2003, was acquired for a third-round pick on June 27, 2009. After a forgettable season in which he had only four goals and two assists in 71 games, Boyle worked out in the offseason with Underwood but still seemed destined for Hartford. But he performed so well in training camp that he earned a job with the Rangers and had 21 goals and 14 assists while being a top penalty killer in 82 games last season. Sauer had three injury-plagued seasons in Hartford before staying healthy in 2010-11 after surprisingly earning a job in New York in training camp. He then ended up being part of the Rangers’ No. 2 pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who changed places with Del Zotto on Jan. 3 and never left Broadway.
“It was good to see for a guy like that who battled through some adversity with injuries,” Weise said. “It kind of slowed his progression a little bit, but he came last year in kind of the same situation as me now, made the team and got himself a nice, little contract (two years, $2.5 million).
“You look at a guy like that who got a chance to play a few NHL (preseason) games. No one was really expecting him to make the team, and he was steady and made it hard on (Rangers management) and they couldn’t cut him. And look at Brian Boyle, who also wasn’t considered to be making the team. He came in, had a solid camp and continued to get better. I think guys like that are something I can build off of.”
WHALE OPEN CAMP SATURDAY
The Rangers prospects will play their Devils counterparts Friday at 1 p.m. in Newark, N.J. Then the Rangers will make their first cuts and send about 20-25 players to the Whale, who open camp Saturday at Champions Skating Center with physicals and testing.
The Rangers cuts are expected to join nine players not invited to Rangers camp, including veteran defenseman Wade Redden, who has played 994 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Rangers and was an extremely positive influence on the Whale’s young players in his first time in the minors last season. Redden, 34, wasn’t invited to Greenburgh because his $6.5 million contract doesn’t fit under the salary cap, and it would count toward the cap if he was injured in Rangers camp.
The Whale will have their first scrimmage open to the public Sunday from at 10:40 to 11:40 a.m. The Whale’s first preseason game is Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. against Albany at the Koeppel Community Sports Center on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford. The game benefits the Ryan Gordon/Connecticut Whale Community Scholars Fund, with donations accepted at the door in lieu of an admission charge. The fund memorializes longtime Wolf Pack fan Ryan Gordon, who died in 2006 from cancer and asked that the money set aside for his college education be donated to three charities, including the Connecticut Whale Community Foundation. … The Rangers will commemorate left wing/enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died May 13, with a helmet decal, just as the Winnipeg Jets will do for Rick Rypien, who committed suicide Aug. 15 after a long bout with depression. Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment from an accidental overdose of alcohol and painkillers.
MARK JOHNSON AMONG LESTER PATRICK TROPHY WINNERS
Former Hartford Whalers center and Olympic gold medalist Mark Johnson is among four people named to receive the 2011 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
Other recipients to be honored Oct. 26 at the RiverCenter in St. Paul, Minn., are Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Pulford, longtime USA Hockey executive Tony Rossi and college coaching legend Jeff Sauer. The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, was presented to the NHL by the Rangers in 1966 to honor the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport’s development.
Johnson, born in Minneapolis, followed an accomplished athletic career by distinguishing himself as a coach. Perhaps best-known as the leading scorer for champion Team USA at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, one of 13 international tournament in which he would play for the U.S., Johnson scored twice in Team USA’s iconic 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union en route to the gold medal. Johnson, who had a three-year collegiate playing career at the University of Wisconsin, also competed for 11 years in the NHL (1979-90), collecting 508 points in 669 games.
Johnson is currently head coach of the women’s hockey team at his alma mater, having led Wisconsin to four NCAA championships (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011). He also served as the head coach of the 2010 silver-medal winning U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team and twice was as an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s national team at the World Championships (2000, 2002) Johnson, the son of legendary college and NHL coach “Badger” Bob Johnson, was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Pulford was one of the most reliable players in the NHL during a 16-year career that spanned three decades. He played 1,079 regular-season NHL games, winning four Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1962-64, 1967) before being traded to the Kings in 1970. He took his first coaching role with the Kings, guiding them to their first playoff appearance in five years in 1974, and won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in the NHL in 1975. That season, the Kings amassed 105 points, still a club record.
Pulford then joined the Chicago Blackhawks, where he spent more than 30 years in various roles. He served as the club’s head coach on three separate occasions from 1977 to 1987. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1990 and took on the general manager’s duties three separate times. Pulford was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
Besides a highly successful business career, Rossi has generously donated significant time, resources and expertise to USA Hockey for parts of five decades at the grassroots and executive leadership levels. After beginning his volunteer career with the National Governing Body in the mid-1970s, Rossi was elected to the USA Hockey Board of Directors in 1983 and served as a director from the Central District until 1988. He then was elected to the USA Hockey executive committee and transitioned into the role of USA Hockey treasurer in 1995. He currently serves as vice president of the organization and its international council chair.
During his time with USA Hockey, Rossi helped guide the formation and growth of The USA Hockey Foundation, a charitable and educational non-profit corporation that provides long-range financial support for USA Hockey and promotes the growth of the game in the United States. He was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation council in 2008.
Sauer is one of the most successful and distinguished coaches in the history of college hockey. After his playing career at Colorado College, where he played for Bob Johnson, Sauer spent more than 30 seasons as an NCAA Division I head coach at Colorado College (1971-1980) and the University of Wisconsin (1983-2002). Sauer won national championships as coach of the Badgers in 1983 and 1990 and ranks eighth on the all-time wins list of college hockey coaches with a 655-532-57 record.
Sauer also is closely involved with preparing and coaching the USA Deaf Olympic Team, having participated in seven Deaflympics and earning a gold medal in 2007 at the IIHF Winter Deaf Olympics. In April 2009, he also coached Team USA to a bronze medal in the first World Deaf Hockey Championships. Sauer earned the John “Snooks” Kelley Founders Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association in 2003, presented to individuals in the coaching profession who have contributed to the overall growth and development of the sport in the United States. He is a member of USA Hockey’s International Council and the Disabled Hockey Committee and also currently works for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as assistant to the commissioner. Sauer was recently named head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.