In the grand scheme of things, Doug Weight only spent a small part of his long career with the Carolina Hurricanes. However, it’s safe to say those days were among his most memorable.
On Thursday, Weight, most recently of the New York Islanders, announced his retirement at the age of 40. He leaves the game having scored more points (1,033) than all but six American-born players while ranking ninth in games played (1,238). He was a four-time All Star who represented his country in three Olympics and two World Cups.
With all those accomplishments in mind, his resume may not be complete if not for the 46 games he played in a Hurricanes sweater during a five-month span in 2006. That was when Weight, who had never before and never again advanced past the second round of the playoffs, captured his only Stanley Cup.
“It was one of the closest groups I’ve ever played with and a first-class organization that was committed to win,” said Weight, who was wearing his Hurricanes championship ring while addressing that experience from his press conference in New York.
“I was 35 years old, and you start thinking you’ll never get the chance. I thank God I was able to do it.”
Weight scored 29 points (7g, 22a) in the final part of the regular season and playoffs, effectively making the transition from the premier offensive roles he had filled in his previous stops to secondary scorer on a team already featuring Rod Brind’Amour and Eric Staal down the middle. Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford recently said that, rather than wait until the trade deadline over a month later, he stepped up his pursuit of Weight at the end of January in order to help ease that transition.
“In that year he was the No. 1 guy that was targeted, and I think teams were looking at making a deal for him at the deadline,” said Rutherford, who acquired Weight from St. Louis in a deal involving five players and three draft picks on Jan. 30. “By jumping in early, that got him out of the market and got him on our team quicker to make the adjustment to his new teammates.
“When you make a deal like that, the players that are already on your team take notice because they believe the organization really feels that the team has a chance to win. He probably only took a couple of hours to fit in because of his personality and character.”
Weight saved one of his best Hurricanes performances for when it mattered most, notching a goal and an assist in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against Buffalo. As fate would have it, Weight would be unable to repeat that performance in the Canes’ next Game 7 against the team with which he spent the majority of his 19-year NHL career, the Edmonton Oilers. Weight suffered a shoulder injury in Game 5 of that series, causing him to miss the final two games.
However, that didn’t stop him from finally lifting the cup. In a moment that was later immortalized in an NHL ad campaign, Weight received pain medication so that he would be able to temporarily set aside his sling, throw on a jersey and hoist the trophy over his head, just barely, with the rest of his team.
“In lifting that cup with an injured shoulder, he was as determined to do that as he was determined to win it,” said Rutherford.
Weight would later re-appear on the Hurricanes’ radar for a vicious open-ice hit that left then-19-year-old Brandon Sutter with a significant concussion, causing the rookie to miss eight games in 2007. Though publicly critical of Weight at the time, Rutherford insisted that there was no lingering ill will.
“He was playing the game as hard as he can and everything happens very quick,” he said. “My comments are always going to be about protecting our own players.
“He certainly was a piece of the success of winning the Stanley Cup. Anytime you have a player that joins in with you in that, it’s always special. Doug and his family are great people, and I wish him all the best as it goes forward.”
For Weight, that will involve staying on with the Islanders as an assistant coach and special assistant to General Manager Garth Snow. It’s a role not unlike the one Ron Francis filled in recent years prior to his recent return to the Hurricanes’ front office, indicating his similar value to the organization that employed him for the final three seasons of his playing career.
That commitment should prove something the Hurricanes already know. Even in a short amount of time, a player like Doug Weight can leave a lasting impression.