The father figure in most families serves as the guy who takes his kids to those early hockey practices or show them how to take a slap-shot, but for the Islanders, their father figure is the one who pulls them out of scoring droughts or knows the appropriate time to tell a joke on Opening Night to make the room laugh before taking the ice.
For the Islanders, that “father-figure,” is Doug Weight, who enters his 19th professional season. The Islanders captain has accomplished more than most over his years, but he doesn’t get stuck in the past, instead keeps pushing himself to achieve each new milestone as they come upon him throughout his career. With the knowledge he has gained throughout his NHL years, Weight has used it to become a father figure to many of the Islanders young roster, including the team’s first overall pick in 2009, John Tavares
It’s awesome. What he and his family have meant to me, I can’t really put into words. The leadership and experience he brings to our lineup are immeasurable. Obviously he’s a special player and potentially a Hall of Famer, so he’s a big part of our lineup and we’re excited to have him 100 percent healthy. - John Tavares
“It’s awesome,” Tavares said of his teammate. “What he and his family have meant to me, I can’t really put into words. The leadership and experience he brings to our lineup are immeasurable. Obviously he’s a special player and potentially a Hall of Famer, so he’s a big part of our lineup and we’re excited to have him 100 percent healthy.”
There’s no doubt the center-man may be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day. Since he was drafted by the New York Rangers in the second round (34th overall) of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Weight spent three seasons with Rangers, nine seasons with the Oilers, seven intermittent seasons with the Blues and one season each with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Anaheim Ducks.
Before signing with the Islanders as a free agent on July 2, 2008, the center-man saw action in 12 playoff seasons, hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. The veteran has also played in the Olympics, representing the United States three times; he’s played in the IIHF World Championships three times and the World Cup twice. But even more notable, the veteran has accomplished quite a few milestones many players never come close to setting. Weight ranks fourth in active assis
t leaders with 740 (40th All-Time), fifth in active point leaders with 1,024 (67th All-Time), eighth in games played with 1,220 (80th All-Time), and 27th in active goal-scoring leaders with 276 tallies. These accomplishments place him alongside the likes of Mark Recchi, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne.
Weight’s experience and veteran leadership hasn’t been overlooked by the Islanders’ Head Coach Scott Gordon, who started just months before Weight was acquired through free agency.
“I think that with any veteran, you want them to be the voice of reason to the players,” Gordon said. “When they have their ups and downs, (it’s nice to have someone who is) able to say ‘It’s not the end of the world. You’ve got to go out there and keep working. And at the same time, you almost have to be more of a fatherly figure than you do with a guy that needs you to put the hammer on.”
“I don’t think that in this day and age that you get the same response from a captain who was like that all the time, you have to have that calm demeanor, the voice of reason in a tone that the players can understand more readily,” Gordon added.
Weight is looking forward to helping the Islanders this season, noting that the young roster has had a few years of experience to help bolster their performance this year. He expects a lot out of the Islanders young roster, including Tavares, as well as Josh Bailey
, Matt Moulson
, Blake Comeau and Rob Schremp.
“I’m looking to surprise some teams and coming out with a lot of energy and winning some hockey games, and like I said, putting ourselv
es in a situation we haven’t been in, in the past, with the luxury of maybe being above 500 and having teams chase us,” Weight said.
“We’re a year older now,” Weight continued. “For some of us, that’s a good thing. Our team has more experience and it’s time for us to be a little more accountable as a group. We’re going to have to come up on a daily basis and perform for 60 minutes and not be satisfied with a good little six-game run. Our team, throughout the lineup, has to get more consistent and that will bread some better results.”
Along with players like Bailey, Moulson and Tavares, the newest youngster on the team, Nino Niederreiter
has taken a lot away from his experiences with Weight.
“The first time I played in New Jersey, that’s kind of where I really got back into my game,” Niederreiter said. “He just told me that I have to play with more fun and use my skills, which I usually bring to the table and I did. Even in the game against Montreal, I think I had a great two periods there and I was happy that he kind of gave me my confidence back.”
Weight is really happy that he can be that presence on the ice and in the dressing room for all these young players, but he also has to think about himself from time to time. With the veteran status, comes age and just last year, Weight suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Many thought that the injury could end Weight career but instead he beat the odds and is back feeling healthier than he has in years, ready to play in his 19th season.
He’s admittedly still a little sore from time to time, but is making sure he keeps up with his post-skate regimen to keep the swelling down. Despite all the odds, the 39-years-old Michigan native is doing extremely well. “I feel good,” Weight said. “I feel as young as I’ve felt in five or six years. So that’s exciting to me.”
While his shoulder is stronger than it has been, Weight is not only excited about his strength but also his confidence level on the ice to get in the corners and take hits to make plays.
I think the biggest thing I realize and I notice is that my confidence on the ice is tenfold. I’m not worried about the physicality of the game or where the puck is or where the wall is, what position I’m putting myself in, and that’s how I played the first 17 years of my career. - Doug Weight
“I think the biggest thing I realize and I notice is that my confidence on the ice is tenfold. I’m not worried about the physicality of the game or where the puck is or where the wall is, what position I’m putting myself in, and that’s how I played the first 17 years of my career.”
Feeling better than he has at the start of the season in recent years, he couldn’t be more excited to get the new campaign underway, especially because he knows how lucky he is to still have a professional career.
No matter if Gordon sets the morning skate for 8 a.m. or 7 p.m., you better believe Weight will be there ready to take the ice and soak in each moment.
“Oh man, it’s exciting, it’s a privilege,” Weight said. “Near the end of your career, you kind of start realizing how great this game is to you. It is exciting to be in the locker room and around so many good guys.”