Another article for Ignite magazine.
Since signing from Newcastle Vipers in 2007, Jonathan Weaver has experienced real highs and lows with Coventry, from league success to play off failure, Weaver has been in the thick of it.
The 32 year old defenseman might not be Blaze’s longest serving player but there’s no doubt of his commitment to the club. Coach Paul Thompson is full of praise, describing Weaver as the best player in the league right now and lucky for us, he’ll be sticking around until 2012.
Right now, however, Jonathan is concentrating on the season ahead, and he’s optimistic about our chances. Speaking after October’s 5-2 win over Sheffield he explained the importance of the game.
“It’s a huge win for us. They’re a team who are going to be there at the end of the season so to get the wins against them early is key. They lost a lot of good guys from last year and that’s going to upset the balance of the team but we know come the end of the season they’re going to be strong.”
So far Blaze have achieved three wins from three league games against Sheffield but Jonathan knows the road to league success is long and difficult.
“If we play like that every game then there’s no reason why any team in the league should come near us. But we’ve got to bring that kind of edge in, that kind of focus every game, which sometimes we don’t.”
Blaze have already felt defeat at the hands of Sheffield this year, after losing 3-2 in last month’s 20/20 HockeyFest. Although it wasn’t an ideal result, the tournament was followed by some big wins over Sheffield and Nottingham, and a more consistent form throughout October.
With the new format and slightly different rules of HockeyFest, the team didn’t know what to expect beforehand.
“It was kind of a shot in the dark before we went,” Weaves said. “We just went up there with the right attitude, worked hard and played solid. It took us right to the final and obviously when you get that far you want to win but we played well.”
Jonathan explained why a consistent performance is vital for Blaze’s chances and why every point counts: “The last three or four years there have been two or three outstanding teams. This year, it seems like any team can beat any team so all that’s going to do is compound the league, bring everyone closer together and it’s going to be a lot tighter come the end of the season.”
With the squad gelling together and playing as a team, Weaver is confident Blaze have what it takes to consistently win and grind out the points needed to finish top in March.
“We’ve got a great set of guys who all get on in the rink and away from it. That’s key to a successful squad” Jonathan said. “The new guys have come in and slotted in really well. It’s a happy place to be.”
And how is he finding his partnership with Jason Robinson?
“I played with Robbo in Newcastle for a while, we complement each other. He’s a big tough stay at home defenseman, I like to get to the puck and move it up. So we play off each other and it seems to be working alright.”
According to the stats, more than alright, actually. With 14 assists Jonathan Weaver is ranked fourth in points for Blaze. Some good form he credited to a summer spent in extra training.
“I’m getting a little bit older so I’ve started looking after my body a bit better, I was running quite a bit to keep myself in shape, looking after what I ate, and it’s paid off. I feel a lot sharper on the ice.”
He might be getting that little bit older, but Jonathan is keen to continue playing, and Coventry are happy to have him, recently extending his contract by two years.
“If I look after myself the next few years, stay injury free, there’s no reason why I can’t keep playing. I still enjoy it so I’ll be playing for as long as I can. You can never read too far into the future but I’d like to finish my career here.”
Playing with, rather than against Coventry is preferable for Weaver who recounts his joining the club two years ago.
“It was a club I’d always admired from afar but it wasn’t a nice place to come and play. It’s a tough building to come to, the crowd are intimidating and Thommo’s had a good team here but I knew working with him in the GB team what he was all about. I knew the organisation was stable and a good place to be so I was excited to come.”
With the Elite League dropping import numbers from 11 to 10 this season, keeping Brits in the squad is a real asset and Jonathan was full of praise for our British lads.
“If you’ve got a strong Brit core then you’re one step ahead of the rest. We’ve got a good set of Brit’s here, young Joe [Henry] has stepped up and he’s done a great job for us so far.”
Since earning regular ice time this year, Henry has done nothing but impress.
“He’s been playing fantastic, he’s smart on the puck, he’s patient, he makes the right plays and he works hard” praised Jonathan. “Obviously he’s going to have the odd mistake here and there but we all do, that’ll come with age and experience.”
The future looks promising for Henry who, according to Weaver, should be aiming for a spot in the Great Britain squad.
“If he keeps playing the way he is, he’s in the best place to be with the national coach. Thommo sees him every day and if he keeps his head down, works hard, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be there.”
So the key to the future success of Coventry Blaze? Continuing our good form. And with Weaver looking to see out his career with us, the future looks bright.