It took a few different sports for Tyler Weiss to finally find his passion, but once he did, there was no turning back.
Weiss started out in bicycle motocross (BMX) and basketball before discovering hockey.
“I did BMX for about three years,” he said. “I broke my collarbone and I retired. After BMX, I started basketball and then, I got into hockey.”
It was Weiss’ brother Ryan, two years his senior, who helped fuel his love of hockey.
“I was playing basketball at the time but it was my older brother who got me into hockey,” Weiss recalled. “He was playing roller hockey and he switched to ice hockey. I guess he just got into it and he was trying something new. I looked up to him so I always wanted to do what he was going to do. That just happened to be hockey.”
Of course, watching the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006 also provided some extra motivation for the Raleigh native.
“When they won the Stanley Cup, that got me really excited and it really got me into hockey. I think that is when I realized that I wanted to take it seriously,” said Weiss. “I was going back and forth, and I had to make a decision on which sport I wanted to take more serious. I chose hockey and I’m really glad I did.
“Hockey fit me more. I loved the fast pace, the cold rinks and waking up early to go to practice and games, and my teammates. Everything about hockey interested me.”
Getting in a car and riding to practice or games is a rite of passage for any hockey player. But for Weiss, heading to practice was an all-day affair as the family had to pack up and drive to another state for him to play the sport he loved.
“For practice, we had to travel five hours,” he said. “On Saturday, we would have two practices. We would travel five hours to Virginia and have a practice and then we would stay there all day to wait for the second practice, and after that, we would travel five hours back home. We would drive 10 hours per day for practice.
“Then, the team moved to Richmond, Virginia and we would stay at each other’s houses on the weekend. This was a tournament team so we would go to different states every weekend. We would play Chicago, Michigan and even Toronto. We drove everywhere. We didn’t fly so it was a grind.”
Weiss ended up moving to Toronto in 2014 to pursue his dream and play hockey for the Don Mills Flyers Minor Midget of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. It initially was a huge transition for him, but it also helped him when he moved to the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“My first year in Toronto was the hardest for me,” recalled Weiss. “It was the first time I was away from home and I had to make new friends. My second year was much better.
“Now, I’m in Michigan with the NTDP. I have to make new friends. I’m going to a new school, playing for a new hockey team and I’m without my family. I’m more used to it and feel more prepared.”
He also took to heart some advice from head coach Danton Cole that he received when he first arrived in Plymouth.
“I had never attended a public school with all the classes. He told me when you are on the ice, you are a hockey player and when you are in the classroom, you are a student,” he said. “You focus on what you are doing at the time. I think I’m doing way better with that advice.
“It was an athletic school that I attended in Toronto. There was one lacrosse team and two hockey teams. There were about 300 students total. There are 1,000 kids at my high school in Northville.”
He has learned a few lessons in hockey along the way, especially playing in the United States Hockey League.
“You have to keep your head up,” he said. “They will catch up with your head down. They are bigger and stronger. You can’t stop moving your feet as they will catch you. I’m one of the smaller guys so they can throw me around. I choose not to let them. It’s more fun to play with some of the best prospects in the U.S.”
He credits the NTDP for helping his game grow the last two months. He has one goal and seven points in 12 games.
“I think my game has improved by using my body more. I really want to prove a point that I don’t want these kids to push me around. I want to throw it back at them,” he said.
The biggest area of growth is in the weight room for the 5-foot-10, 140-pound forward.
“It’s going great. I have already gained seven pounds working out since I have been here,” explained Weiss. “I compete with the older guys and I’m trying to compete with the guys and lift heavier weights.”
Weiss and his teammates head to the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which runs from Oct. 30-Nov. 5. Weiss expressed excitement for his first international tournament and to see where the U17s stack up against the rest of the world.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s always fun to represent your country. You want to be on top at the end and be the best. Playing against all the kids I’d played against. There are definitely a few people that I will know on the Canadian team.
“Not everyone gets to do that. I put on my jersey very slowly. I appreciate the opportunity I have in front of me. I want to take it all in. It will not last forever and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Weiss already has that feeling after winning a gold medal with the U.S. hockey team at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. It was an experience he will never forget.
“That was an amazing experience,” said Weiss. “I got to learn a lot of new things and see the Olympic Village. I was lucky enough to be born in 2000 since it is once every four years.
“We lost to Canada at first and I was upset. We came back and beat them in the title game. The best part was playing in front of 5,000 people and standing at the blue line and hearing the national anthem. It was the best feeling in the world.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.