RED DEER – This month’s Alumni Spotlight focuses on Chris Leinweber, formerly of the NWCAA Flames.
Like many Canadian children, Chris has been skating for nearly as long as he has been able to walk. He first stepped on the ice at the age of three, and from that point on, all he wanted to do was skate. When the weather got nice and skating was no longer an option, Chris would spend his summers playing baseball, soccer, golf, and doing watersports at the lake. He is a big believer in the multi-sport approach, and credits other sports for building him into an overall athlete instead of just a hockey player.
Starting in the Crowchild Association, Chris progressed through the ranks of minor hockey to eventually play with the NWCAA U15 AAA Stampeders and the U18 AAA Flames. After minor hockey, Chris began a career journey that would take him all around the world. He started playing Junior A with the Calgary Canucks for one season, before moving on the University of North Dakota, where he spent four seasons. From there, his professional career began with stops in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators before ECHL stops with the Johnstown Chiefs, Utah Grizzlies, and Augusta Lynx. In 2006, Chris ventured overseas to join Italian team Asiago for one season, moving on to Norway, Denmark, and Germany for the following years.
“For me, the game gave me so much. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the game of hockey. The thing I will remember most, especially as I get older, are the relationships I built and the life skills I gained,” said Chris. “Obviously you gain all of the physical skills through the game, but the skills off the ice, the maturity, the life lessons you learn along the way are equally as important to me.”
Chris credits several people as being influences on his hockey career. First, his parents allowed he and his brother the opportunity to play the sport they loved and advance to the top levels. Along the way, Chris was very fortunate to play for some influential coaches who excelled in teaching both on and off ice skills. As an undersized defenceman, he really looked up to Paul Coffey when he was growing up.
Some of Chris’ favourite hockey memories stem from his time playing minor hockey in Alberta. First, as an “underdog” team in the Alberta Cup, they were the first Calgary team to make it past the round robin into the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, they did not end up winning the tournament, but fond memories were created from the short time that the team came together. Secondly, winning an AJHL championship with the Calgary Canucks is a memory that stands out. As one of the favourites to win, he looks back at how the team was able handle the pressure and get better throughout the season, ultimately winning the championship.
These days, Chris spends his time coaching minor hockey and is a Firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department.
“The life skills and network the game has given me cannot be appreciated enough. I was fortunate to have received a scholarship to play hockey and continue my education. I was fortunate to travel the world and play hockey,” said Chris. “I’m very fortunate to have a career now that I may not have been able to have if I wasn’t able to learn these life skills through the game.”