These last two-and-a-half months have been some of the hardest and frustrating for New York Islanders Captain Doug Weight. The back injury he suffered and has been rehabbing, has kept him sidelined for 58 games this season. Three days ago, he learned it would end his season.
“I’m deeply disappointed, but I knew it was a possibility,” Weight said.
He continued, “There’s still quite a risk if I had come back. It was an easy decision, one that the trainers and doctors made easy for me. It’s not easy as far as having to say it and know that you’re not going to play anymore this year.”
The 16-year veteran last played on Nov. 17 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and has since been sidelined with what he originally believed were back spasms - until he was told otherwise by team doctors and specialists.
|Doug Weight #93 of the New York Islanders in action during a game against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders won 2-1. (Photo by Lou Capozzola/Getty Images) |
Due to two small fractures in his lower vertebrae and a slipped disk, the 40-year-old center has nerve damage from the amounting pressure. Not only has he had to deal with pain, but he’s even had moments where his left leg has completely buckled from underneath of him.
“Anytime you’re messing with your back, your vertebrae, your nerves, and what I’ve gone through for about eight weeks now, without any movement… I think you start to realize the importance of (healing the right way),” Weight said.
Understandably, the injury has made him feel defeated at times, not being able to lift more than 10 pounds with his left leg. But he’s a fighter and fortunately for Weight, the prognosis is good. With proper rehabilitation, his vertebra has started to realign, helping to relieve the pressure off his spine.
“There’s no pain, but I want to be able to be an effective parent and an effective men’s leaguer if I chose to go that way,” Weight said half being serious and half joking around. “Obviously, it could be worse than that. They (the doctors and trainers) pretty much took it out of my hands. Every decision is your own, but they made it a pretty easy one.”
As one of the oldest and most seasoned players in the National Hockey League, Weight has a lot to think about. The center loves playing and being a member of the Islanders franchise, but he needs to put his health and family first. Therefore, Weight hasn’t made any decisions on what lies ahead, but at this moment, he’s leaning towards retirement.
Although, he has said he’s not going to rush to judgment.
“I would lean more towards retirement than I would playing (again), but by no means have I made that decision,” Weight said. “I don’t want to hang on. I just want to make sure my mind’s right. I feel like that’s my right. I’ve earned it over time, to make sure that’s what I want.”
Weight continued, “When I’m on the ice, I don’t feel out of place. I owe it to my family and myself to make the right decision.”
He’s definitely earned that right.
Weight has hit milestones that most professional hockey players will never meet. Since being drafted by the Rangers in the 1990 Entry Draft, Weight has played for six different franchises and has had the chance to raise the Stanley Cup over his head when he won with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
He’s played 1,238 games (76th on top 100 all-time games played), scored 278 goals and potted 755 assists (39th on top 100 all-time assist leaders) for 1,033 points (65th on top 100 all-time point leaders).
He’s been with the Islanders since 2008-09, when he joined his friend and then-team captain Bill Guerin on the Islanders. Weight was named captain in 2009-10, and took first overall Entry Draft selection John Tavares
under his wing. Welcoming Tavares into his home, Weight has acted as a mentor for the sophomore forward these past two seasons.
|Doug Weight #93 and John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrate an overtime win over the of the Toronto Maple Leafs during game action October 18, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“Even though it may seem like he’s not around because he’s not playing, he’s here every day,” Tavares said. “And even though I’m not living with him this year, I think our communication has been the same. He’s been very helpful for me, and I think to all the young guys. He knows what it takes and we can learn a lot from him.”
It’s that kind of veteran leadership that has made Weight such a valuable member of the Islanders franchise. But he’s also shown that he can lead by example.
“The way he shows up every day, whether he feels good or not,” Tavares said “And how hard he still works, seeing how much better he still wants to get and how he feels he can still contribute at this high level and obviously his talent, his natural talent. It’s a pleasure to watch him and be his teammate.”
Even if Weight isn’t a member of the team next year and he moves on, Tavares knows his teammate’s family will always be there for him, saying that he’s become somewhat of an older brother to Weight’s children.
“Whether he’s not here on a day-to-day basis or he’s kind of moved on from playing, he’s a guy that I’m always going to rely on,” Tavares said. “Our friendship has grown in a lot of ways. I can talk to him like I can talk to any other buddy that I have. He’s great like that. And like I’ve said, he’s got such a great mind for the game that there are always lessons to be learned from him.”
It’s those kinds of qualities that could make Weight the perfect addition to the Islanders organization, something the veteran has said he’s thought a lot about, but has only had informal conversations with Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
“First and foremost, I’ve always let them (Snow and owner Charles Wang) know how much I appreciate the way they’ve treated me and my family,” Weight said. “I’ve played for six organizations, and this is at the top. I didn’t know what to expect three years ago when I came here. I think there’s a certain brush that’s painted Long Island in the past – in the last 10 years, 12 years – and it’s unfair. It’s a great place to play.”
Weight continued, “(Islanders) management has there eyes on the ball, they want to succeed, and they’re very driven. They’re very hard-working and they’re very intelligent. I’m excited. I would love to be a part of hockey when I’m done.”
Whether Weight decides to retire from his hockey playing days, opting to take some other position in the field, or he decides to play for one more year, he said he’ll strive to succeed.
“I know my own personality,” Weight said. “I know when I get into something, I’m going to be driven at it. I’m going to want to be a big part of something, and I’m going to want to be working. I want to succeed. It’s never going to be like walking out onto the ice and competing and I know that. But whatever I do, I’m going to be passionate about it and am going to want to succeed.”