The night after Mike Weir's victory at the Masters, my team, the
Anaheim Mighty Ducks, was playing Detroit in Game 3 of our
playoff series against the Red Wings. As Brett Hull and I lined
up for a first-period face-off, I turned to him and asked, "So
how about Weirsy winning the Masters?"
He flashed a smile and said, "Un-bleeping-believable."
Now, eight weeks later, I'm playing for the Stanley Cup, but I'm
still riding a high from Weirsy's victory, as are plenty of other
guys in the NHL. We're all wannabe golfers (and a lot of us are
Canadians like Mike), and he is hands down our favorite player.
That makes me a peer-group celebrity. Everybody knows how tight I
am with Mike. We met about 10 years ago through his brother Jim,
and I've been in the gallery of Mike's summertime tournaments
since before he got his PGA Tour card in 1998. (I'll be a fan
again next week at the U.S. Open, at which I hope to cheer him to
the second leg of the Grand Slam.) The guys are always catching
me on the phone with Mike, and they ask me, "What does he think
of his chances this week?" I'm like the switchboard operator for
the NHL chapter of the Mike Weir Fan Club.
I didn't go to Augusta because of our playoff schedule, but I
watched every shot of the final round at home in California. I
was up out of my chair every five seconds. Whenever CBS's Lanny
Wadkins criticized one of Mike's shots, I wanted to go through
the TV. When Mike finally won, I was on the verge of tears. It
was the culmination of so much hard work for him. You could tell
he wasn't really playing his best--he hit only 38 of 72 greens
that week--but that shows how gritty he is. Weirsy has the
biggest heart of any athlete I know.
He called me that night from the victory celebration at his
rented house in Augusta, and we talked for about 45 minutes. At
first it was a weird conversation. He kind of giggled, and I kind
of giggled. Neither of us knew what to say. Finally, he said,
"Well, are you guys going to beat Detroit or what?"
"You just won the freakin' Masters," I said, "and you want to
Mike's been rooting hard for me to win my first Stanley Cup, just
as I was pulling for him during the Masters and will be again at
the Open. I can't wait to watch him take apart Olympia Fields.
I'm also hoping we'll get to play a little golf together later
this summer. Weirsy and I don't play a lot of social golf, but he
doesn't get to play hockey with me, either. But now that he has
privileges at Augusta National, I may have to insist.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (OATES) WILD OATES A five-time All-Star who ranks 16th alltime in points, Oates, Anaheim's center, is chasing his first Stanley Cup.