Chaz Weaver is special. He loves popcorn. And hot chocolate. He loves fun and one direction, too. And boy, does he love his hockey.
So much so that he has become an honorary board member of Anoka Area Hockey Association.
This love of Anoka Hockey started when Weaver, now 20, was a little kid with a babysitter who played hockey. She got the Weaver family interested in the sport.
His ties with Anoka Hockey went full strength when his little brother Jack Weaver was on the C mite team. Coach Rob Savini made Chaz the team manager and assistant coach.
One of Savini’s favorite memories of Weaver was from that year at a game in St. Cloud.
He was always on the bench with him as part of the team. Savini carried a notepad to make notes during the game. Weaver wanted to know what the notepad was for. Savini asked if he wanted to be coach for the day.
Weaver immediately grabbed the pad and followed Savini, walking up and down the bench and gave the talks between periods.
Savini said the kids just loved it.
“The kids were great, all very attentive with him, watching him,” Savini said. “Kids today are more conscious of it (differences in people) than when we were kids. They’ve all been great.”
Brother Jack’s next team was coached by Jeff Perry, who continued the tradition of making Chaz a part of the team.
Perry said, “Chaz was my right-hand man over the course of a few great years in coaching various mite and squirt teams at Anoka.
“I relied heavily on Chaz for many things, but most importantly, he always brought color and perspective (and plenty of popcorn) into the locker room.”
Weaver was very effective at interjecting his wisdom and humor during the serious pre-game speeches, causing the locker room to erupt in laughter and always adding something special to the game plans.
One of Perry’s fondest memories was in the locker room following an overtime loss, when the players were hanging their heads amid plenty of tears. Chaz walked around the locker room and gave every player a hug to make them feel better and told them that everything would be all right.
As Weaver got older, he went to AAHA board meetings with his dad, Charlie Weaver, vice president of Anoka Hockey.
At one meeting, Savini, current president of AAHA, invited the younger Weaver to be special assistant to the president. They held an impromptu election and voted Chaz in. He went home so excited to tell his mom, Julie Weaver, about it.
“He was very excited, very proud. He told me ‘I’m a real board member. I don’t just go to the meetings,’” she said.
This is Chaz’s second full year as an honorary board member.
Charlie says Chaz loves being on the board.
He reads all the material, takes it pretty seriously.
He follows along with the agenda, often holding the hand of his friend Savini.
Chaz likes to keep the board members on task, like following one of his favorite board members when he leaves the room for a water break.
He follows Mite Director Al Blomker, asking where he’s going, what he’s doing, when he’ll be back. Board members were recently discussing who would be running for upcoming terms.
Blomker said he may not run for a position again. Chaz, during his usual closing statements at the meeting, supported his friend, saying, “I’m not coming back unless Al’s coming back.”
Blomker said Chaz always makes you keep things in perspective and realize that hockey is just a game.
“At the end of the day, having fun and enjoying the people you’re around is what matters.”
Savini always asks Weaver questions at the end of meetings and gets his thoughts, which are generally entertaining.
Savini relayed a story of their camaraderie and genuine friendship when Chaz wanted everyone’s email because he was now a board member.
He also said he needed Savini’s cell phone number.
So Savini said: “I’ll call you and then you will have my number in your phone.” Savini dials. It rings. Chaz answers, “Hello?”
“Who is this?” Savini, standing right next to Chaz, laughs “Chaz! It’s me!”. Chaz laughs, in on the joke.
Charlie says he loves Chaz’s enthusiasm at the games.
He often sits by himself, right up against the glass. He’s energetic, cheering on the team and “he’s not reluctant to criticize the refs.”
“He loves to cheer on his little brother,” Charlie said. “Everyone knows him. It’s a safe place. It’s like an extended family for him. The hockey association has really embraced him.”
His mom agrees, saying the hockey community makes Weaver feel loved and needed and that he can contribute in some way.
“It’s his place of choice to hang out,” she said, When offered a choice, it’s always this rink.
Weaver says his favorite things about hanging out at the rink are watching hockey and being on the board. “It’s awesome. I get popcorn and hot chocolate for meetings,” he said.
But for as much as Weaver seems to benefit from all that Anoka Hockey has to offer, the people of Anoka get much more in return.
“When he sees you, he comes flying across the room to give you a hug. It’s the way everyone wants to be treated,” said Savini.
Weaver’s exuberant displays of affection are initially met by stiff-armed uncomfortable boys when they first meet him.
But the boys are soon reciprocating the embraces right back to him, as seen on a daily basis at the rink.
Perry summed it up this way. “Chaz Weaver has touched the lives of many young players in the Anoka Hockey community with his compassionate nature, friendly smile and his perspective on life as it relates to the game of hockey,” he said.
Having Down syndrome is not what makes him special.
What makes him special is the fist bump, the hug, the kiss and his love for all things hockey and for everyone who crosses his path.
Three cheers for Chaz.
Story submitted by Mary Novak