Shea Weber Says he Can’t Wait for Canadiens’ Home Opener at Bell Centre
Shea Weber admits he was shocked after the Nashville Predators traded him to the Canadiens on June 29 in exchange for P.K. Subban. But now the veteran defenceman, who turns 31 on Aug. 14, says he can’t wait for the Habs’ home opener at the Bell Centre on Oct. 18 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Playing on the road here is one thing, but being able to play here at home in front of these fans … you just get chills and shivers thinking about it,” Weber said Tuesday morning when he met the Montreal media for the first time before the start of the fourth annual Michel Therrien Invitational at Le Mirage in Terrebonne, a golf course owned by Céline Dion. “I know everyone that I’ve played with circles the date on the calendar when you’re coming to Montreal. So to play here for 41 games is going to be pretty special.”
Weber said it was also special to put on a Canadiens uniform for the first time Monday at the team’s Brossard practice facility as he posed for promotional photos and skated on the rink with a few of his new teammates who were in town for the golf tournament.
“It was unbelievable,” Weber said. “All the history … you look around the locker room at the practice rink in Brossard and all the guys on the wall and the history … an Original Six team. It sends chills down your spine and it’s almost a surreal feeling. I’m definitely excited and looking forward to playing in front of these fans every night.”
Weber spent the first 11 years of his NHL career in Nashville after being selected in the second round (49th overall) by the Predators at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The Canadiens had a couple of shots at drafting Weber that year. In the first round they took Andrei Kostitsyn (10th overall) and in the second round they took Cory Urquhart (40th overall) before Nashville picked Weber. Of course, a lot of other teams could also be kicking themselves today for not selecting Weber earlier.
Weber admitted it was tough at first to accept the fact the Predators had traded him to Montreal.
“Yeah, for sure,” the 6-foot-4, 236-pounder said. “I think any human being … I was there for 11 years and you expect to play in one city in your career. But at the end of the day, it’s a business and I’m more than excited to be here and have an opportunity to win with these guys. Especially looking around the room yesterday and seeing the guys we have and knowing that we’ve got a chance to win. It’s going to be pretty good.
“I’m excited for the passion,” he added. “It’s exciting to be back in Canada, let alone the mecca of hockey, the place where people just eat, sleep and breathe hockey. It’s going to be something new, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Weber also said it’s nice to know that his new team really wanted him.
“There’s definitely an excitement that a team wants you,” he said. “They traded for you you, so they want you. And, obviously, you want to come here and be a piece and be a part of what they’re going for. They made some good acquisitions this off-season that I think are going to help push this team forward. Some good character guys. To fit in with the pieces that they’ve had with a healthy Carey Price, I think it’s going to be a good season.”
Weber has been spending the summer at his home in Kelowna, B.C., where he has been working out with Price as they both get ready to play for Team Canada at next month’s World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Weber was asked if Price has given him any tips about playing in Montreal’s hockey fishbowl
“Carey’s a quiet guy, obviously,” Weber said. “Carey came over on Thursday, I think it was … him and his wife came over for dinner. So I got to know a little bit about Montreal in his words. And, obviously, as we go along here we’ll continue to build a stronger relationship.”
Part of that relationship will include Weber protecting Price’s crease after the goaltender played only 12 games last season because of a knee injury.
“I’m going to try,” Weber said with a smile. “He’s probably tougher than I am … at least he’ll tell you that.”
As for the pressure of playing in Montreal, Weber said: “There’s pressure everywhere you go. If you play international events there’s pressure, you play in the playoffs there’s pressure. It’s just something you have to deal with and I don’t think you think about it a whole lot. I just think you be yourself and do what got you here and I think that’s all anyone can ask.”
Shock of trade wearing off
More than a month after the trade Weber says the shock of it all has definitely worn off.
“It was obviously initial shock,” he said. “I don’t think it was the fact that I was traded for P.K. … just the fact that I was traded. Shock and then excitement. You find out where you’re going and it’s such a good city and such a great place to play hockey. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Weber added that his family is also excited. He and wife Bailey have two young children — Beckett, a boy born two years ago, and Kenley, a girl born last November.
“They’re really happy to be back in Canada,” said Weber, who grew up in B.C. and met his future wife when they were at high school together in Kelowna, where he played for the junior Rockets. “They’re both far from home (Nashville and Montreal) but at the same time Canada is being in Canada and that’s an exciting thing and the passion here (for hockey) is not only in Canada, but in Montreal is through the roof.”
Montreal spotlight will be an adjustment
When asked if he would be comfortable with the media spotlight in Montreal, Weber responded with a laugh: “Sure, if you guys want to follow me around all the time.
“It will be an adjustment, for sure, but it’s part of it,” he added. “Obviously, it’s the passion in the city. People want to hear about the team, learn about the team in any little aspect. And that’s the way it is.”
Another new Canadiens player who is going to have to adjust to the Montreal spotlight is Alexander Radulov, who signed a one-year, US$5.75-million free-agent contract with the Canadiens after posting 23-42-65 totals in 53 games last season with CKSA Moscow in the KHL. Weber spent two seasons playing with Radulov in Nashville — 2006-07 and 2007-08 — before the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward headed to the KHL.
“Rads, I think he’s got a lot to prove,” Weber said about Radulov, who missed a team curfew before a playoff game when he was with Nashville. “I talked to him probably three weeks ago, maybe a month ago now. He’s looking forward to it, he’s very excited. I know he’s got a family now, so hopefully he’s here for the right reasons. I think he’s a guy that can make a difference. He’s a game-breaker. And playing with him, you know that he’s a top-end talent and definitely a good piece for our team.”
Why No. 6?
There are only two single-digit numbers with the Canadiens that haven’t been retired yet and Weber will be wearing one of them this season.
Weber is keeping the same No. 6 he wore with the Predators. The only other single-digit number not retired by the Canadiens is No. 8.
No. 1 (Jacques Plante), No. 2 (Doug Harvey), No. 3 (Butch Bouchard), No. 4 (Jean Béliveau), No. 5 (Boom Boom Geoffrion and Guy Lapointe), No. 7 (Howie Morenz) and No. 9 (Rocket Richard) are all hanging from the rafters of the Bell Centre.
Weber said he wore No. 2 in junior hockey with the Kelowna Rockets and No. 4 when he was with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. Both of those numbers were already taken when he joined the Predators, so he took No. 6 — the number he had been given with Team Canada at the world junior championship.
Weber was only 7 the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup and said he didn’t really watch many Montreal games while growing up in B.C. and didn’t have a Habs hero from their glory days.
“To be honest with you, out West we didn’t watch the Canadiens a whole lot,” he said. “It was a lot of the Canucks and the Flames and whatnot. So can’t really pinpoint one guy. But, obviously, there’s a lot of history and that’s pretty cool. It’s going to be awesome to see those guys around the rink and just to shake their hands it’s going to be awesome.”