Islanders Captain and 19-year NHL veteran Doug Weight announced his retirement Thursday afternoon. The announcement was made in front of Weight’s family, friends, members of the media and six lucky Islanders fans.
The six fans were given access to the closed press conference after winning a contest held on the Islanders Facebook and Twitter pages. The winners were selected at random and notified Wednesday evening.
The fans sat toward the back of the press-only event, but were easy to pick out in their Islanders jerseys.
|Six lucky Islanders fans won a contest which gave them all media-exclusive access to Doug Weight's retirement announcement held at the Long Island Marriott on Thursday, May 26, 2011. From left: Carey Haber, Doug Weight, Ryan Yuhas and Sean Bradley. |
“I’m completely honored to be here,” Carey Haber said. “This has been an unbelievable experience to witness the end of a great career.”
When Haber checked his email last night he was not expecting to find out he would be getting a chance to watch a hockey legend retire.
Rachel Minkoff, a student at Yeshiva University, found out she won the contest after her last final on Wednesday.
“I was so ecstatic that I won,” Minkoff said. “I want to thank the Islanders so much for this.”
Ryan Yuhas has been a lifelong Weight fan and coincidentally a lifelong Islanders fan, too. When Weight signed with the Islanders in 2008 it was a match made in heaven for Yuhas.
“Doug has been my hockey idol,” Yuhas said. “Growing up I tried to mimic his game. So to be here when he’s retiring is such an honor.”
One contest winner didn’t find out he had won until a few hours before the press conference. Tom Ballantyne was happy to make it to the event on time.
“To be here when one of my favorite hockey players of all time announces his retirement is just an honor,” Ballantyne said.
When the press conference began, the Islanders played a video montage of Weight’s career. Weight then delivered a part-emotional, part-funny and completely genuine speech in which he officially retired from the NHL and thanked the people who made his experience memorable.
“(Weight’s) speech gave pointers about leadership and what it’s like to play in the NHL,” Islanders fan Sean Bradley said. “You shouldn’t sit back. You should take initiative and strive for your goals.”
Yuhas added, “Dougie’s a class act, and he’s been one of those guys who has been a great ambassador for the game, for USA Hockey, the NHL, and for the last three years, the Islanders.”
Islanders owner Charles Wang spoke about the positive impact that Weight and his wife Allison have had on the Islanders organization. Wang then presented the Islanders Captain with a framed picture depicting Weight’s playing career and his jersey from his final game.
|Six lucky Islanders fans won a contest which gave them all exclusive access to Doug Weight's retirement announcement Thursday, May 26, 2011. From left: Carey Haber, Sean Bradley, Harris Peskin, Tom Ballantyne and Rachel Minkoff. Not pictured: Ryan Yuhas. |
Islanders General Manager Garth Snow then announced that Weight will remain with the team as Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager. Weight and his family recently purchased a home on Long Island, so keeping Weight in the organization is a great fit.
“I’m so happy that he’s going to stay within the organization,” Haber said. “He’s a great ambassador for the team and throughout the league.”
Minkoff went on to say, “When I found out he was retiring, I knew that he would make an amazing coach one day and I’m so glad he’s staying with the team.”
The press conference concluded with a question and answer session for the media. Upon its conclusion, the fans got the chance to see the likes of John Tavares
, Matt Moulson
, Mark Eaton
, Mike Mottau and Bill Guerin interact with the media in a less formal manner.
After several interviews, the fans met Weight and congratulated him on his decision. The crowd began filing out and the contest winners were left with a once in a lifetime memory.
“The Islanders always do things the right way,” Yuhas said. “The fact that they’re giving their fans a chance to be here on such a great day and to experience it live is unbelievable.”