The captain has found a new location to sail his vessel, and the destination is a return to his family roots: Germany.
Cornell men’s hockey senior forward Jake Weidner has signed a contract to play with the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German league) for the 2017-18 season, the team announced Friday morning.
“Pretty proud moment for myself and my family and myself to say I’m a professional hockey player,” Weidner told The Sun.
Despite being founded only 20 years ago, the DEL has quickly risen to one of Europe’s top hockey leagues, housing several NHL players during the lockout that erased the 2004-05 season.
Two of Weidner’s grandparents hail from the Deutschland and speak german, but the Grand Valley, Ontario, native says he plans on taking some summer classes to brush up on the language before heading over.
“I had been interested in going to Europe ever since I started playing for Cornell,” Weidner said. “That was something that I had in the back of my mind, and something that I viewed down the road to continue playing hockey professionally.
“I ended up being able to get my German passport, my grandparents are German, and that made it a lot easier for me to play over there because of import rules,” he continued. “It came about really quickly in the past couple weeks but I’m glad it did and I’m looking forward to it.”
As the end of the season brings about a hectic time for a senior looking to land on a professional roster, Weidner has looked to fellow Grand Valley-er Jeremy Wick, a product of St. Lawrence who plays for Genève-Servette in Switzerland. Weidner and Wick overlapped in the 2013-14 season, Weidner’s collegiate debut.
“He’s been kind of an influence for me,” Weidner said. “We have been able to talk about the potential of going overseas to play, and really helpful for me to realize how to do that.”
Weidner wrapped up his senior campaign as the team’s captain, appearing in every game, finishing third on the team with 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists) and second on the team in blocked shots with an astounding 70.
Weidner was awarded the ECAC’s top defensive forward this season. He was also a stud at the faceoff circle, winning 57.6 percent of the 882 draws he saw in his senior season.
Both shot blocking and faceoffs underwent a maturing process for Weidner through his time at Cornell. Weidner’s stellar shot blocking senior year was a 36 block improvement on his junior year. In his freshman season, he took 35.3 percent of faceoffs, but once given a consistent role at the dot, his seasonal average never dipped below 56 percent.
Most notably in his final season, Weidner was deployed for countless minutes on both of the team’s top power play and penalty kill units, and saw time against the teams’ top lines. His 70 blocked shots are largely due to the time on the penalty kill, but his lethal one-timer made him just as looming a threat on the man-advantage as well.
“There are so many things I learned, whether it be balancing school and hockey or work ethic and coming to the rink every day and being a consistent competitor,” Weidner said. “There are a lot of things I feel like I developed here, it’s hard to narrow it down to one.”
Weidner joins four other classmates who have signed to professional organizations, but only his is the first outside of the United States. Defenseman Patrick McCarron and forward Matt Buckles currently sit on AHL rosters, while goaltender Mitch Gillam finds himself in the ECHL.
As the other three have already departed for their next endeavor, Weidner has noticed a bit of a downside to signings: losing friends and housemates, albeit exciting.
“It’s been really, it’s an exciting time for our class and our team. You don’t really expect everything that’s happening to be going on so quickly, and then it does,” he said. “Three guys in our house were all gone last Monday, so it’s kind of a little bit of a shock for us, but at the same time we’re still happy.”
The Roosters are one of 14 teams within the DEL. They missed the playoffs with a second-to-last finish in the 2016-17 regular season. Currently on the Roosters sit a few former NCAA athletes, including products of Ferris St. and ECACer Mathias Lange from RPI, though he and Weidner never overlapped in college.
“Right now I’m just focused on next year, going in in great shape and being able to contribute off the bat and then take it from there,” Weidner said. “Whether it leads to a long career playing hockey there or playing hockey wherever it ends up being, I’m just taking it one step at a time.”