BOSTON | Kevin Weekes is a professional. Now an analyst on NHL Network and CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” the former goaltender had to be objective Wednesday night as he watched his long-time friend Joel Ward score the Game 7-winning goal for the Washington Capitals.
The pride in seeing Ward score came through in Weekes’ voice.
“Seldom will you hear Joel talk about the challenges and the long road that he had to take to get to the league. If anything it’s just his appreciation for getting here and being here and knowing that he can contribute,” Weekes said in a phone interview late Wednesday night. “I’m sure he was just humbled and thankful to be able to contribute tonight. It was a huge goal. He scored a lot of them last year in the playoffs, but this I’d have to think is the biggest goal of his career, for sure.”
No doubt. And Ward had Weekes to thank. The Caps right wing got a text message from his mentor earlier in the day
“He just told me to visualize and obviously do my thing along the boards and go to the net,” Ward said. “I took it to heart and just tried to visualize as best I could this afternoon and coming to the rink of the scenarios of what I’d have to do.”
Weekes explained that his and Ward’s parents knew each other from back home in Barbados and that they grew up in the same neighborhood in Toronto. The ex-NHL goalie went to school with Ward’s other brothers, so the connection goes way back.
Weekes said the message was for Ward to believe in himself.
“He’s so open-minded. He listens, he pays attention,” Weekes said. “I’m just so happy to see that he’s living his dream now and he’s been in the league. A credit to him. He listened.”
Ward listened big-time. He drove the net in overtime as Mike Knuble carried the puck up ice and was in perfect position for the rebound winner.
“I took those words from a guy that I’ve looked up to for many years,” Ward said. “My first Game 7 experience, I figured i’d learn from somebody who’s been through it a bit and go from there.”
This has been a difficult season for Ward, and Weekes watched from afar as the 31-year-old right wing signed to a four-year, $12 million contract last July was demoted to fourth-line duty and even sent to the press box as a healthy scratch more than a handful of times.
“That was something that was kind of frustrating for me during the season, to see him not getting the ice time that I know he deserved,” Weekes said. “But God works in mysterious ways, as we all know. Sometimes it’s a bigger plan than we understand or even accept in the moment. Given the way that this ended up, more importantly for his team and his having a hand in it, I’m sure he feels special about it.”