Niagara-on-the-Lake native Chris Weier has been selected by the Toronto Rock in the fourth round of last week’s National Lacrosse League draft.
When training camp is eventually allowed to start, the Brock University sports management student will be one of six new defencemen who will be vying for a spot on the 2020-2021 Rock roster.
Weier says he had been talking to a couple of other teams ahead of the draft, including Halifax, Rochester and Colorado. He is elated to have been selected by the Rock, though, a team that plays its home games just down the QEW from his NOTL home.
Choosing Weier was a no-brainer for the Rock. In 2019, after his hometown Niagara Thunderhawks were eliminated from the Junior B playoffs, Weier was asked to join the Orangeville Northmen of the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League (OJALL) for their playoff run. Weier became a key member of the Northmen defence as they rolled on to win the 2019 Minto Cup last August over the Victoria Shamrocks.
The head coach of that Canadian championship team was Bruce Codd, who also happens to be an assistant coach for the Toronto Rock. Weier says that gives him a bit more of a comfort level when he eventually gets the chance to try to work his way onto the team.
There are other reasons why Toronto is right for Weier. “I know the coaches, there’s a couple guys from St. Catharines, and it’s nice this year with everything going on, with COVID,” he says. “If anything happens, it will be nice to be close to home, and not have to travel much.”
Toronto head coach Matt Sawyer, like Codd an Orangeville native, says the organization was excited to have the opportunity to draft Weier. In an email, Sawyer calls Chris “a smart defender with high upside who makes the right decisions in transition. We really like the fact that Chris has shown an ability to improve each year of his junior career and we expect that to continue at the next level.”
That ability to improve and to be coachable was a key trait for his former Thunderhawks coach Randy Chrysler.
“Give me 25 Chris Weiers,” says Chrysler. “I’ve never seen a young man at his age so humble, so willing to work. He does what he’s told, he’s always like a sponge. He doesn’t say much, but he leads with his actions on the floor.”
Chrysler, for one, thinks Weier won’t have any problem cracking the pro team’s line-up. “He better be a starter, or I’m going to go there and yell at them,” he jokes. “Their style, their transition, that’s right up his alley. The kid is not your 215-pound, 6-foot-3 kid, but his lacrosse IQ is like a cagey veteran. He reads the plays before they happen.”
Other than his stint with Orangeville, Weier has played all of his lacrosse, both field and box, here in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He credits his parents, Rob and Kathy, for their support in helping him get to the point where he is able to pursue his professional lacrosse dream. He also gives a nod to his past NOTL coaches Kevin Buis and Andy Boldt for their help in his development.
The Crossroads Public School graduate also represented Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in three trips to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association’s lacrosse championships, helping the team to second, third and fourth place finishes.
Holy Cross coach Corey Quinn share’s Chrysler’s sentiments. “I always knew (Chris) had the talent, just often I didn’t see other people seeing his talent,” says Quinn. “He was always a quiet leader on the team. You could call him the stone- faced assassin. Never showed any emotion. You told him to do something, he’d just go do it.”
“Stone-faced” is an accurate assessment, as Weier rarely changed his tone of voice or got too excited during a telephone interview for The Local. Every question was answered with an even keel, in a no-nonsense manner. The only emotion he showed was a bit of a chuckle upon hearing what some of his past coaches have said about him.
While studying at Brock, Weier has also been an important member of the Badgers. Brock coach Tim Luey credits the “6-foot-2, 185 pound shut- down defender” as a huge factor in the team, posting the lowest goals against total in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association last season.
“Chris is a defensive stalwart who just doesn’t make mistakes,” says Luey. “He’s so consistent and makes very smart decisions. He’s the type of player a casual fan may not notice, but if you just watched him for just 10 minutes, you’d be impressed.”
Weier knows it won’t be easy to earn a spot on Toronto’s roster. The Rock traded away future draft picks to acquire superstar defenders Jason Noble and Mitch de Snoo, and also drafted three other defencemen, one ahead of Weier.
“With the acquisitions they had,” he says, “it’ll be tough for anybody coming in as a first-year player. But you never know, throughout the summer, working hard, getting your stick in your hands, who knows? Injuries or something, who knows what could happen.”
While waiting to hear whether or not Toronto Rock will be allowed to hold a training camp later this year, Weier says he will continue trying to put on a bit more muscle, while concentrating on his studies at Brock. And if the Badgers are allowed to have a truncated sports season later this school year, that should give him a chance to get that stick in his hands to prepare for his move to the pro ranks.