It's always good when good things get better. This week, the excellent Versus trio of hockey analysts, Bill Clement, Keith Jones and Brian Engblom, will be augmented by a pair of recent Stanley Cup winners -- Aaron Ward and Doug Weight.
Weight and Ward were key contributors last year to the Carolina Hurricanes' Stanley Cup triumph. Both were free agents at season's end. Weight returned to the St. Louis Blues, while Ward signed with the New York Rangers and was later traded to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Paul Mara.
Weight's Blues played eight games against the Red Wings, so he knows that team better than some of his Michigan-based relatives.
Ward, in his 20 games with the Bruins, played in the Atlantic Division against the Senators twice and the Sabres once. The Bruins and Ward also played the Red Wings in March.
"We're thrilled to have two guys who won the Stanley Cup last year giving us their insights," Jones said. "They both have vast experience and Aaron won two earlier Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.
"Both players are also tremendous speakers, so that's an added bonus. There's a big benefit in that they played in different conferences this past season, so Doug can give us his knowledge of the Western Conference, while Aaron has expertise with the Eastern Conference teams.
"My expectation, from knowing them both, is that they're going to be great contributors."
Weight, 36, of Warren, Mich., was an All-American at Lake Superior State University and has played 16 NHL seasons. The left-shooting center has 255 goals and 689 goals for 944 points. In addition to his Stanley Cup ring, Weight was a member of the triumphant Team USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He has played on three American Olympic teams, winning a silver medal in 2002.
"Versus called me," Weight said. "I've been doing the Hot List on ESPN, making picks. They called and said they'd love to have me on their broadcast. They said they're not expecting anything earth-shaking and they're not expecting me to be nominated for any awards!
"I think the offer is cool. They're honoring us for winning last year and they're letting us sit on a panel and talk about hockey. I'm just going to try to relax and enjoy the excitement."
Weight knows the Versus crew, mostly from meeting them during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and various international competitions. The only one he played with or against is Jones.
"Jones had contact with me," Weight said, "... mostly running around with his stick! I've talked with Brian a lot and Bill has been covering hockey forever, after a Stanley Cup career. He's great at what he does and I've been a fan of his for a long time. I feel lucky to be a part of this."
While Ward, 34, is seen as having Eastern Conference insider knowledge, he knows the Detroit team in a way money can't buy.
The Ottawa native played three seasons, 1993-96, with Detroit's AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Red Wings. That team included future Stanley Cup winners Slava Kozlov, Marty Lapointe, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Tim Taylor, as well as veteran NHL players like Mike Knuble, Bob Boughner, Jamie Pushor, Sergei Bautin and Wes Walz.
"Darren McCarty was also with that team. We made the Calder Cup semifinals my first year, but lost to Portland," Ward said. "Newell Brown (the puck-shooting expert) was our coach and now he's with Anaheim. I saw him recently and we talked a bit."
Ward carries the dressing-room mentality with him. Everyone's fair game, no one's spared.
Aaron, you played your minor hockey in Nepean. Steve Yzerman played there, too. Right?
"Steve Yzerman is older than me, a lot older," Ward responded. "If he's reading this, Steve Yzerman is a lot, lot, lot, lot older than me."
Good luck with that in Hockeytown, Aaron.
All Ward has to do is be himself and pull funny stories from his long memory. Ward was reminded that his Adirondack team used seven goalies one season.
"That was the year we got Daniel Berthiaume," Ward recalled. "He was known as 'Bandit." So, he walks in the room first day and someone says, 'Hi, Bandit.'
"'No, no, I'm not Bandit,' Berthiaume says in that thick accent of his," Ward said. "'Not Bandit, Batman.'
"Batman? Batman? That's why we can't be giving ourselves nicknames. It doesn't work," Wardsie said.