We create new memories every day; some of them good, some of them bad and some of them just plain heart-wrenching.
After a 19-year playing career in the National Hockey League, Doug Weight is one of the lucky ones. He’s reached countless milestones, made amazing friends and has had the undying support of his teammates, family and fans.
As rumors of his retirement circulated on the press wire, the Mt. Clemens, MI native had many opportunities to relive some of those memories prior to his May 26th announcement. Thinking it would help his efforts to deliver a flawless and less emotional goodbye to the game, the storied veteran wrote an eight-page speech thanking his friends, family and the six organizations for which he played.
“Obviously, as you can see, I wrote something down here, just a little about my journey,” Weight said. “It’s only 70 to 80 pages (laughs) about the game of hockey and a few people that I want to mention. I think it’s a little easier to read it and make sure I don’t forget.”
|New York Islanders Captain Doug Weight fights back tears while speaking to the media during a press conference to announce his retirement on May 26, 2011 at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) |
Then, as the day arrived, the future Hall of Famer was barely seated in a ballroom at the Long Island Marriott in front of his family, friends, members of the organization and the national press before his eyes began to glisten.
A video tribute to Weight’s playing career promptly sent him and his family into tears. While the video brought back wonderful memories of his days as a New York Ranger, Edmonton Oiler, St. Louis Blue, Carolina Hurricane, Anaheim Duck and New York Islander, it also choked him up thinking about the announcement he was ready to make.
“It’s very difficult and humbling to be here today to officially announce my retirement after 19 seasons,” Weight began. “To say the game of hockey meant the world to me is a huge understatement. I feel so grateful and fulfilled for everything this sport has given me.”
He continued, “Since I was two-years-old, all I wanted to do was skate and to this day, my love for the game burns just as much inside of me. I’ll miss my teammates a lot. I’ll miss the locker room, the excitement of setting up a teammate for a big goal, the competitiveness of a faceoff, pregame butterflies, a playoff road win, looking around a tense room prior to a game seven and seeing the focus, commitment and sacrifice in a teammate’s eyes and knowing that we could not and would not let each other down. All of that, I will miss dearly.”
There were times when it was hard to speak, but in between a sip of water, a dab under his eye from a tissue or a few deep breaths, his words couldn’t have been more eloquent. After the press conference was over, Weight said he found his strength from somewhere in the front row.
He said, “At times when I was looking for some strength to keep going, I’d look at Allison and she’d be wiping her eyes, then I’d look at mom and my dad and each of them had that glisten in their eye. Finally, I found my children, my son Danny, my daughters Ryan and Addison, and they were keeping it together, so I just kept looking at them.”
The comedic relief offered by the men flanking Weight on stage also helped the vet, as General Manager Garth Snow and Owner Charles Wang occasionally chimed in to relieve the pressure.
As Weight paused, his one-liners filled the air with laughter. When referring to his long-time friend and former teammate Bill Guerin, he said, “Those big eyes always get me.”
|New York Islanders Captain Doug Weight speaks to the media during a press conference to announce his retirement on May 26, 2011 at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) |
During the Q&A session, Weight used his sense of humor again to break the tension.
A journalist asked, “You played with more guys than not that leave without one of those (Stanley Cup) rings. Is this any easier because you have one of those rings?”
“Well, being married is great,” Weight responded, as the crowd cracked and applauded. “This is probably only the third or fourth time I’ve worn it, but I felt it was a good day. It was the biggest accomplishment (of my career)… It was something I’ll never forget… I was fortunate. It’s timing.”
Some of the best stories, which helped to lighten the heavy hearts, came from Islanders owner Charles Wang. Addressing Doug’s wife Allison, he said, “I want to commend you and empathize with you for raising four incredible children: Ryan, Danny, Addison and most importantly, Dougie.”
Wang wasn’t the only one to bring up Weight’s children. At one point during the question and answer portion, the World Cup Champion and four-time All-Star related coaching his son's hockey team to standing behind the Isles bench at Nassau Coliseum.
“It’s a different side of the puck, a different side of the boards. It’s like going to my sons practice and trying to run practice. Everybody says, ‘Look, Doug is going to run practice,’ but I don’t know any drills. Those kids are everywhere, but as soon as I get off and think it was the worst practice ever, the parents are like ‘that was awesome.’”
Now that Snow has appointed Weight to a dual position in the hockey operations department, both as Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager, there are two former NHL players not so far removed from the game making executive and personnel decisions.
Wang cracked more jokes as he welcomed the added depth.
“I think it’s great,” Wang said. “I don’t have to spend as much time diagramming the power play. I always tell them when to pull the goalie. They listen well as you can see. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think the fact that Doug just played last season and is with us now, the players know what character he brings, the kind of closeness, even when Billy (Guerin) was playing with us.”
He added, “I’ll give you guys one tip. Get them to sing karaoke together.”