Doug Weight remembers the first day he saw Tony Amonte when they were New York Rangers teammates back in 1991.
He was the one skating 100 mph, looking like a conductor-less locomotive speeding down the tracks.
"Man, he was skating so hard, I thought limbs were going to fall off," Weight, the current captain of the New York Islanders, told NHL.com. "The thing was, he skated so hard because he had an ability to do things at high speed."
Fact is, that was the only speed Amonte ever knew. His game was predicated on the fact green definitely meant go, not, proceed with caution.
"Tony was crazy legs out there," offered former teammate Brian Leetch. "He just got on the ice and skated and skated. They put him on (Mark Messier's) line fairly early, and there wasn't a better guy just to boost his confidence and tell him to go. Tony would open up for one-timers and bust down that wing to the net and go right to the post. So it was fun to watch. You don't really expect that all the time from a guy just coming in. A lot of times it takes a little bit for you to feel your way or to gain that confidence -- Tony came right in and looked like he was gonna play for a number of years."
He'd actually play in more than 1,100 games spanning 15 seasons in the NHL with five teams, including eight-plus with the Chicago Blackhawks. The five-time NHL all-star ranks 11th on the all-time points list among American-born players with 900. He broke the 30-goal mark in eight seasons and topped the Blackhawks in scoring on two occasions (1996-97, 1999-2000). He went five seasons in Chicago without missing a game (410 games) from 1997-98 through 2001-02.
"You get lucky," Amonte said of his playing streak. "I had a lot of bumps and bruises, but never anything major. The funny thing is that streak was broken after I got hit in practice behind the net by Darcy Hordichuk (with Phoenix in 2002-03). I was kind of hurt because it really didn't feel very good, but the next night I went out to play against Minnesota and on my first shift I went out to take a slap shot and my rib just cracked so it must have been fractured before. And that was it."
In addition to his professional career, Amonte also was a two-time Olympian and two-time member of Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey -- scoring the decisive goal against Canada at 17:25 of the third period in the deciding game of the inaugural World Cup in 1996. To this day, Amonte still considers that goal the pinnacle of his hockey career.
"I never was fortunate enough to win a Stanley Cup so, yeah, that goal and that victory in the World Cup was the biggest moment for me," Amonte said.
It's a career that will be remembered as one of the greatest in American history on Dec. 1 when Amonte is inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. He'll be joined by 2002 Olympic teammates John LeClair and Tom Barrasso, the 1998 women's Olympic team and inventor Frank Zamboni, who'll be inducted posthumously.
"It's a heck of an honor and seeing the guys who were inducted last year like Leetchy, Brett Hull and (Mike) Richter, you never really think you would be up for induction so it's something I'm kind of shocked about," Amonte said. "Getting inducted at the same time as my linemate and left wing John LeClair (on the '96 World Cup team) makes this even more special. It's a thrill you never expect growing up, especially when all you do is play for the love of the game."
That love began like any other average hockey enthusiast growing up in Hingham, Mass.
"I was basically living out of rinks, skating or playing street hockey and I think that's where it all came from," Amonte said. "My brother and I just loved the game so much and just enjoyed playing and doing any kind of hockey whether it was on the ice, the street or the driveway, it didn't matter."
That career took off under the tutelage of coach Jack Parker at Boston University, where Amonte spent two seasons and registered 56 goals and 126 points in 79 games.
"He was one of those guys who made everyone else confident," Parker told NHL.com. "He wasn't a big guy, but very skilled and unbelievably competitive. We would always name a "hit of the night" and give that player a paw to stick on the back of their helmet and Tony would always be the guy coming back to the bench after a shift explaining how he deserved it that night. He would come back and say, 'Hey coach, you see that hit. That should be it.' "
Amonte admitted playing two years for Parker at BU prepared him for the rigors of the NHL.
"You just knew going in there that it would be an exciting challenge and even though I only ended up playing two years, they were two great years," Amonte said. "I attended BU because I wanted to play for Jack Parker. I really didn't even know much about the school but after one visit, I was sold on Jack because I liked his style and the way he treated the guys."
At the age of 17, the Rangers selected Amonte in the fourth round (68th overall) of the 1988 Entry Draft. He'd post 35 goals and 69 points in his rookie season of 1991-92 to finish third in voting for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
Since announcing his retirement in 2008, Amonte's love for the game has remained unscathed. He still competes in men's leagues close to home and is as energetic now as he was then.
"It's definitely something you miss when you're away from it for a while," he said. "It's kind of funny because I'm still blocking shots and going all out and even celebrating after the goals during the men's games. I still love it."Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer