June 3, 2011

Belated Thoughts on Doug Weight, His New Job and a Personal Story

We'll file this post under "better late than never."

It's been a week since Doug Weight officially announced his retirement from the NHL and the Islanders announced his new title as Assistant Coach and Special Assistant to General Manager Garth Snow.

Weight announced his retirement at a press conference in the Marriott next to the Coliseum in a ceremony that was done the right way for a guy of Weight's stature.

"It's very difficult and humbling to be here today to officially announce my retirement after 19 seasons," Weight opened. It was in the middle of that first sentence where he really felt it, and you suddenly started to realize that one of the greatest US born hockey players would no longer lace up the skates.

Photo by Chris Hessel
That Weight took the time to talk about every team he played for shows you the class that he was and still continues to be filled with. With each team, he had to take various pauses when speaking about the opportunities that were provided to him and how he ended up in each spot.

When Snow spoke, he brought up a word that a young player used to describe Weight at the team's end of the season dinner: presence. Snow agreed with this and acknowledged that key attribute as a huge reason why he was keeping him on in the new role.

I can agree as well with "presence" as being a perfect word for Weight. Anyone who watched parts of the press conference can see how he was able to capture the audience's attention, leaving them hanging on to every word, perhaps waiting on the next wisecrack.

Weight spent most of my childhood years on a talented St. Louis Blues team that was in the midst of a long streak of making the playoffs - one that would last 25 years and end in 2004. He along with talent like Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger were a huge part of those talented teams, but they would never bring home a cup.

Weight had always been one of my favorites growing up. He was one of those players you would have loved to see in his prime play for your team, but unfortunately you sort of knew there was no shot you were going to get him.
Given that, you can imagine what it was like for me to deal with Weight personally in my first year as a member of the Blog Box. Unfortunately, I didn't get to have as many interactions with Weight the player as I would have liked, but there's nothing you can do about that when someone has serious injury issues like the ones that plagued  Weight in his time as an Islander.

It was September at the first day of training camp. Sean and myself showed up to interview a few players and get some liners from them. No one skated that day as the players only did their off-ice workouts. One of the first players we bumped into upon our arrival was none other than Weight.

He was on his way out, but stopped for a few minutes to introduce himself. After joking with him that he needed no introduction, he asked our names and spoke to us briefly before helping us out with some audio for the first podcast of our new adventure. He ended our conversation by explaining that if we needed anything to have the team contact him, and he "looked forward to dealing with us this season."

So here we were, two guys who love hockey, the Islanders and idolized Weight as we did with many of the Team USA guys, having a conversation with the guy as if we knew him for years.

Presence. That is why the position the Isles have given Weight is perfect for him. This is why the NHL needs to keep Weight around.

Weight will undoubtedly play an important role in attempting to recruit prospective free agents. It's not a bad thing to have a resume like he as, not to mention a reputation.

That reputation is obvious to many players - even those who never met the guy. Upon hearing about the retirement of two Team USA mainstays in Weight and Brian Rafalski, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney tweeted "Congrats to Doug Weight and Brian Rafalski on two amazing careers. Both American born players, Stanley Cup champions and great guys."

"Best part is I've never met Doug Weight but hear he is a great guy and me saying that makes my other tweet sound better."

Unfortunately, the Islanders spent much of the past year devoid of "names" in high positions to bring some credibility. Weight is a name that brings a good chunk of that back. It's going to mean a lot for some players when they hear from Weight, who spent extended periods of time with some fantastic franchises, speak so highly for the Islanders where he spent only three years.

The Islanders have made some positive waves this offseason with the re-signings of Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo and maybe the arena bit, but this move for Weight is a very underrated one. Don't underestimate the power of his voice going to bat for a franchise that, to anyone on the outside, may not seem like it would mean as much to him as Edmonton or St. Louis.

Sean and I are both thrilled for Doug and happy we'll still be able to see him around the ranch, so to speak. Hopefully we'll be able to do some interviews with him as he makes the transition from the on-ice to off-ice stuff.



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