King of the Red Light

When Mike Weaver’s hockey career is over, it’s likely he’ll be best remembered for being the guy who originally designed the best college hockey web site on the ’net: And that’s a good thing. That means he won’t be remembered for being the guy who went the most games in the NHL without scoring a goal.

Weaver’s hockey journey began in 1995-96 when he skated for the Bramalea Blues of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League (OPJHL), based in his hometown of Bramalea, Ont. Ex-Cap Andrew Cassels (also a native of Bramalea) and current Cap Steve Eminger also played for the Blues. So did Weaver’s current Kings teammate Mike Cammalleri. Ex-Jet Luciano Borsato is also a Bramalea native who skated for the Blues.

Weaver was named the league’s Defenseman of the Year in 1996, and he went on to star for four years at Michigan State, playing alongside the likes of Shawn Horcoff, Mike York, Ryan Miller, Adam Hall, Andrew Hutchinson and John-Michael Liles. The half-dozen aforementioned Spartans were all chosen in the NHL Entry Draft; Weaver was not. Weaver was a two-time First Team All-American at MSU, and was named the CCHA’s Best Defensive Defenseman two years in succession (1999, 2000).

There wasn’t much demand for a defenseman who stood 5-foot-9 and tipped the scales at 180 pounds in those days, and there is only marginally more demand for that type of player these days. After getting his degree in Web design from MSU in 2000, Weaver signed a free agent deal with the lowly Atlanta Thrashers in June, 2000, just after the team had finished its maiden NHL season.

Weaver turned pro with the Orlando Solar Bears of the old IHL in 2000-01, the last season of the league’s existence. Among his teammates that year were Caps defenseman Brian Pothier, the late Dan Snyder, Darcy Hordichuk, Brett Clark and Norm Maracle. Weaver played 68 games for the Solar Bears that season, and did not score a goal. He also went without a goal in two of his four seasons at MSU.

Weaver and his Solar Bears teammates went on to win the Turner Cup that year, the last ever team to claim that championship trophy. He played in all 16 games, and did not score a goal. You may be detecting a pattern here, but there’s another pattern underlying Weaver’s lack of scoring prowess. He helped MSU finish with the best defense (1.52 goals per game) in school history in 1998-99, posting a plus-23 in the process. That was the second best mark in the CCHA. His plus-17 in 1999-00 and his plus-33 in 1997-98 also placed him among the top three in his conference for both seasons.

Weaver led the IHL with a plus-20 during that championship season of 2000-01. He played on another winner in his second season as a pro, helping the AHL Chicago Wolves to a Calder Cup title and also appearing in his first 16 games (without a goal) with the Thrashers. He posted an “even” defensive rating in his initial stint in the NHL, despite playing for a team that finished 28 games under .500 and was outscored by 99 goals.

Weaver spent three seasons shuttling between Atlanta and the Thrashers’ AHL farm club in Chicago. He got into 57 games, and picked up six assists. Still no goals, though. The Los Angeles Kings signed Weaver before the 2004-05 lockout, and he spent that season playing under Bruce Boudreau (now the Hershey Bears head coach) at Manchester of the AHL. Naturally, he finished third in the league with a plus-35 defensive rating. After the lockout ended, Weaver spent the 2005-06 season with the Kings. He picked up nine assists in a career high 53 games, but still no goals.

Heading into this season, Weaver had 15 assists in his 110-game NHL career. He began the 2006-07 campaign as a spare part, dressing for just one of the Kings’ first 11 games. Weaver had dressed for just 12 of the team’s first 43 games when he was loaned to Manchester on a conditioning assignment in early January. After seven games with the Monarchs, the Kings recalled Weaver. He was in the lineup on Tuesday in Tampa Bay, his first NHL game in nearly two months (since Dec. 7) and the 123rd of his NHL career.

The Kings trailed 2-0 going into the third period, but only until Weaver halved the deficit with his first NHL goal at 1:13 of the final frame. The 55th shot of his NHL career finally found its mark, more than five years after his NHL debut on Nov. 27, 2001. Less than seven minutes later, he fired another shot on goal and it also touched off the red light. Weaver’s apparent two-goal third period sent the game into overtime (the Kings lost in the shootout), and he was named the game’s No. 1 star for his efforts.

But wait. About 40 minutes after the game ended, off-ice officials in Tampa Bay instead credited the second goal to Derek Armstrong, with Weaver getting the primary assist instead. Weaver still has as many goals as the Bramalea Blues have wins this season (they’re 1-45-1-2).

“It’s about time,” said the solidly built defenseman after the game. “I was just like, ‘Get the puck. Make sure you get the puck from the ref,'” Weaver said. “Points are not my thing anyway, so when I do get them, it’s just a bonus.”

What if it had been the other way around? What if Weaver grabbed the puck from his first NHL goal, only to have the goal reversed and his second NHL goal (with the puck now long gone) suddenly become his first NHL goal? Fortunately for Weaver, needn’t worry about such a horrific hypothetical. He’s got that first one, and they won’t be taking it away from him. Too bad it happened on the road, though. The LA Times does not send a beat writer on the road with the Kings, so there was no local print coverage of Weaver’s feat.

With that goal on Tuesday, Weaver avoided any chance of achieving the ignominy reserved for Steven Halko, the former Carolina defenseman whose six-year NHL career ended with no goals in 155 games. Weaver had just passed former Caps draftee Dallas Eakins on the zero hero list. Eakins played 120 NHL games for eight different teams over parts of 10 seasons, but never found the back of the net. A few years back, ex-Cap Rick Berry tallied his first NHL goal with Washington, doing so in his 115th game.

Chalk one up to the good guy, to perseverance. Weaver’s claim to fame remains the INCH site, so he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

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One Comment on “King of the Red Light”

  1. Betsy Says:

    The LA Times ran the AP story which prominently featured Mike Weaver’s efforts, so we did get to read about it. I read the online version of the Times so assume it was buried somewhere in the Sports print version also.

    Thanks for the informative bits about his web design talents. Perhaps he can parlay that talent toward consulting the NHL and their agents post-playing career.

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