FeatureSports

From Barrhaven to the Bigs: A Breakout NHL Season For Mackenzie Weegar

Photography by Kerbens Boisette
By Steve Warne

Barrhaven’s MacKenzie Weegar was one of the NHL’s hidden gems at the 2013 Draft.

While his Halifax Moosehead teammates, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, were being drafted first and third overall at that draft, Weegar was selected sixth last overall. Even though the Ottawa native played with them on the 2013 Memorial Cup winner, and finished second in team scoring among defencemen, he didn’t get picked until the seventh round, 206th overall.

Weegar didn’t care. When he finally heard his name called that year, he was elated.

The Florida Panthers were the team that finally selected Weegar with their final pick. Little did they know that, except for their first pick that year, Aleksander Barkov, Weegar would go on to be a far better player than anyone else they selected. Four picks never got close to the NHL, and three are now retired.

As for Weegar, who just turned 30 in January, he’s still going strong. Now with the Calgary Flames, Weegar just finished the 2023-24 season as the NHL’s third-leading goal scorer (20) behind only Cale Makar and Roman Josi. Weegar was also 16th at the position in points (52), which were career highs in both categories. But without making the playoffs, the individual success was bittersweet.

“It was a bit of a disappointing year for our team, but I have faith we can rebound next year and the years to come,” Weegar said. “For me, personally, I hit a couple of milestones that I’m really proud of, but at the end of the day, it’s the team’s success that is the most important to me.”

Weegar ended up in Calgary two summers ago, traded to the Flames with Jonathan Huberdeau in a blockbuster deal that saw Matthew Tkachuk go the other way.

“I’m not going to lie, (the trade) was a bit of a shock at first – another moment I won’t forget,” Weegar said. “But everything happens for a reason, and I’m happy to be in Calgary now. It was a bit of a transition, but now I feel settled and comfortable, and I’m happy to be in such a great city as Calgary.”

Much of that comfort came from his massive contract with the Flames. Three months after the trade, Weegar signed an eight-year deal worth $50 million that will take him through the 2030-31 NHL season.

Faces had an opportunity to catch up with Weegar to discuss his stellar NHL career and life growing up in Barrhaven.

Who inspired you to play hockey, and at what age?

My cousin, Craig Rivet, inspired me to play hockey, as well as my parents. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have a cousin playing for the Montreal Canadiens. I got to watch him play all the time, and that had a significant impact on why I’m where I am today.

That’s why I wear 52. Craig wore that number when he was playing in the NHL, so I thought I should keep the 52 legacy in the family.

You won a Memorial Cup with Halifax and Nathan MacKinnon in 2013. What stays with you from that accomplishment?

My two years in Halifax were some of the best years of my life. I still go back and visit the city most summers. Winning the Memorial Cup with Nate and a few other star players was unbelievable. What sticks with me the most about winning the Mem Cup is just the pure sacrifice it takes to win, and it helped me get to where I am today.

Are you and Nate MacKinnon still tight?

It’s tough staying in touch throughout the years, especially when we both have the same goal but are on different teams. However, when I visit Halifax, we try our best to see each other and catch up over a beer!

This time last year, you were winning gold for Canada at the World Hockey Championships.
What will you remember about that experience?

Hockey Canada does such a great job with that tournament to make family, friends and the players feel comfortable when we get to Europe. Aside from winning the gold medal, I won’t forget my family and friends at every game, showing the true Canadian passion up in the stands and cheering the boys on.

 

That was truly my favourite hockey experience to date. I’ve never been given that opportunity to represent all of Canada like that before, so to win it all meant a lot to me.

Is there any game day tradition or superstition that you absolutely cannot skip?

I have a few, for sure. I retired a few when I changed teams, but one that has always stuck with me is wearing a black suit to games. I have a few of them, so I don’t always have to get one dry-cleaned. It’s my lucky look, and I rarely ever wear a different style. I also always eat a steak the night before the game and have a beet juice after my pre-game nap.

Who’s the best trash-talker in the NHL? Are you a trash talker?

There are a lot of good trash talkers in the league – Brad Marchand, Corey Perry, Drew Doughty, and Travis Konecny. But I’d have to give it to my teammate, Rasmus Andersson. He’s relentless out there with the chirps. I get to have some good laughs on the bench and on the ice, listening to him every night. As for myself, I don’t mind getting into some professional arguments here and there…

How often do you get back to Ottawa? Are you here in the summer?

I come back to Ottawa every summer to train at Canadian Strength Institute. I love coming back and seeing everyone after long seasons. I have a cottage on the water now, so I mostly spend my time outside the city fishing and having bonfires with family and friends.

What are some of your favourite hobbies or things to do in the off-season?

I think that, as a hockey player, you grow up loving the game of golf as well, which is a big hobby of mine.
But fishing is slowly taking over. It’s amazing being out on the water, hanging out, and catching some fish.

Any favourite restaurants in Ottawa?

I love going out to eat. Some of my favourite restaurants are Riviera, Supply and Demand, and Town.
I also love going to Evoo for lunch.

What’s the most memorable interaction you’ve had with a fan?

My most memorable interaction with a fan was probably this past season when a guy asked me how many beers it would be worth to trade me in fantasy. I won’t spoil the TikTok, but you can see the video on hftvsports. It’s a pretty funny interaction.

What was your first car?

The first car was a light blue ’99 Honda Civic. She was a beauty!

As excellent as you are at hockey, is there something you’re terrible at?

Oh yeah, I’m terrible at lots of things – singing, cooking, and fishing, but I’m working on that!

If you weren’t a hockey player, what job would you want?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I would probably have to go with a career in real estate since my mom has been doing it for 27 years. Or if I were really ambitious in high school and university, I’d say a lawyer.

What kind of music do you like?

I like all kinds, but I’m big into country right now. I love all the popular stuff like Luke Combs, Jelly Roll, and Morgan Wallen. In the winter, I’ll listen to hip-hop and rap, mostly old-school stuff.

Any favourite memories of growing up in Barrhaven?

Lots of great memories in Ottawa, of course, but going to St. Joseph High School with all my best buddies was a great time. I still talk to all 12 of them on a daily basis. Growing up, our family would go up to my grandparents’ cottage at Norway Bay, and we had awesome times hanging out with the whole family there.

What’s your favourite vacation so far, and why?

London and Paris last summer with my fiancée. We got to see lots of famous monuments for the first time, eat at some pretty incredible restaurants, and enjoy lots of wine and cheese. I’m hoping to get back to Europe soon and see some more countries.

Whether he’s exploring the world or continuing to thrive in the NHL, MacKenzie Weegar certainly has an exciting path ahead of him.

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