The National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs are underway, and one of the teams on the cusp of advancing to the second round is the New York Islanders. They’re 3-0 up in their best-of-seven matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and only four teams have ever rallied from 0-3 down to win a series.
On the topic of the Islanders, a longtime fan of the team is former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who took part in the Islanders’ pregame festivities for the first two games. Before Weidman became an MMA standout, he revealed to MSG Networks his aspirations of getting on the ice and playing in the NHL.
“I grew up playing all sports, but I fell in love with hockey early on,” Weidman said. I first started skating probably when I was 3 or 4 years old. And my goal was to be in the NHL. I remember I wrote myself a letter in 6th grade that you then get back as a senior. And I wrote in there that my goal in life and career was to be playing in the NHL and for the New York Islanders.”
“I played center, I was fast and tough,” Weidman added. “I was very physical, but I was a scorer more than anything. But I loved to check.”
Weidman made his pro MMA debut in 2009, not too far removed from his attempt to make the US Olympic wrestling team for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China. Prior to embarking on his MMA career, the 34-year-old Long Island native intended to try out for his hometown Islanders, but one pick-up game was enough for him to realize his true calling.
“When I was deciding if I was going to do mixed martial arts, I had just tried out for the 2008 Olympics for wrestling,” Weidman said. “But I got injured before the trials and I was at a crossroads whether to start MMA or do the wrestling world teams in between and then try out for the Olympics in 2012. I had then just met an Islanders players out somewhere and it sparked a memory. I haven’t played hockey since 6th grade, but I remembered that I was really good at it.
“So I thought I could figure out mentally and physically how to get that back. So I said I’m going to try out for the Islanders. I bought all this hockey equipment and thought it would maybe take about 6 months until I’m ready to compete with these NHL guys. So I went down to the rink and there were a bunch of high school kids playing a pick-up game. I got on the ice with them and quickly realized it was going to take way more than 6 months to be Islanders caliber. It was a rude awakening. This is going to take awhile. So that was the end of my hockey career and then I got into fighting.”
While he may not have panned out on the ice, we do know that Weidman has been one hell of an MMA fighter. Unfortunately for Chris, he is coming off a KO loss to Ronaldo Souza at UFC 230 back in November. His last win — indeed his only one over his last five fights — was an arm-triangle choke of Kelvin Gastelum at Nassau Coliseum, which is now the part-time home arena for the Islanders. He completed “unexpected neck surgery” earlier this year, but his return to the Octagon is unknown.
(Transcription provided by MSG Networks)