After an impressive collegiate career at Lake Superior State University, the New York Rangers selected Doug Weight 34th overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being selected among the top 40 players in the world that year, it is doubtful Weight knew he was about to embark on a 19-year professional career that would one day have his name mentioned amongst Hockey Hall of Famers.
Sure, like most 19-year-olds, Weight had dreams and goals. But to envision himself wrapping up a near-two decade career as one of the best American-born players to ever play the game, is an expectation that would set most players up for failure.
|Weight was drafted by the New York Rangers 34th overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. |
Instead, the Mt. Clemens, MI native stayed grounded, made incredible friends, played for six NHL franchises and thrived in an environment he loved. And when the storied veteran formally announced his retirement May 26, it wasn’t a day to mourn, but a day to celebrate a player who had a truly amazing career.
“Hockey-wise, nobody saw the ice better than Dougie,” said his friend and former teammate Bill Guerin. “He was a winger’s dream to be playing with because of the way he passed the puck and saw the ice.”
Guerin continued, “Even more than the way he played, Dougie as a teammate was the best. The way he approached the game, the way he was a leader in the locker room and the way he was a friend. He was always there for his teammates and me in particular. I’m a better man for having played with Doug Weight.”
That’s just the kind of guy Weight has always been. He’s a vocal leader, charismatic and loved by all. So it’s easy to imagine the amazing friendships he’s built since entering the league.
“He’s got an unbelievably good sense of humor,” said long-time friend and Hall of Fame winger Brett Hull. “He’s easy-going and has fun playing the game. If you weren’t having fun, there was no way to play well. You’ve got to have fun out there, while still playing at a high level.”
|Weight played for the Edmonton Oilers from 1992-93 through 2000-01. |
Hull added, “Dougie to me was always a constant professional. He took his craft very seriously and was one of the top five smartest players that I was ever able to play with. He saw the game different than most people. He was a great playmaker, but beyond that he was also a guy that could score goals.”
Statistically, Weight had a world-class career, playing in 1,238 NHL regular season games (76th all-time on the games played list), posting 278 goals and 755 assists (39th on the all-time assist leader board) for 1,033 points (65th all-time points leader). He’s earned an additional 23 goals and 49 assists in 97 playoff games.
After completing his second season at Lake Superior State University, Weight joined the Rangers in 1990 and played one playoff game. Brian Leetch, who had been drafted by the Rangers four years prior, was on the blueline for Weight’s debut.
“When he first came to New York, he came with Tony Amonte,” Leetch said. “They both came about the same time. I remembered what it was like when I was first coming up and how guys helped me, so I certainly became friends with them and tried to give them advice by sharing the experiences I went through.”
Leetch continued, “Neither Doug nor Tony needed much advice then. They were confident guys coming in and they believed they belonged in the NHL.”
Weight did more than belong. He made a lasting impact.
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The first few years of Weight’s career served as some of the most crucial turning points in USA Hockey history. Weight and Guerin’s playing careers not only helped frame their long friendship, but also announced to the hockey world that American-born players could match up against the worldwide elite in the game.
|Weight skated for Team USA during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. |
Together, Weight and Guerin represented the United States in three IIHF World Championships, two World Cups of Hockey and two Olympics, including winning a Silver medal at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. While those memories were some Guerin said he’ll never forget, none were quite like the history they made during the 1995-96 season.
That year, USA Hockey founded a National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, MI, which was specifically designed to help the advancement of American-born players on an international level. Weight, Guerin, Hull, Brian Rolston, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk all attended that inaugural camp.
As Team USA prepared for the first World Cup, their biggest obstacle was getting past Canada, the favorite to win the tournament.
“We went into that tournament maybe not as the favorite, but we certainly believed in the locker room that we could compete with all the best teams in the tournament and that our team was as good as anybody in there,” Leetch said, who was able to reunite with Weight in Ann Arbor.
Even though the US entered as an underdog, Tkachuk remembers Weight and the rest of the young Americans were dangerous and would stop at nothing to win.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” Tkachuk said. “No one gave us a chance to beat Canada, but we did it in two-out-of-three games. After losing the first game in Philadelphia, we went up and beat Team Canada in Montreal twice.”
|Weight played with Bill Guerin and Keith Tkuchuk on the St. Louis Blues. |
Tkachuk continued, “That was the turning point, I believe, in US hockey. And Doug was a big part of it. Like I said, no one gave us a chance, but all of our players were in their prime at that time. We were at a great age and everyone understood their role. We all just understood what it took to win and we found a way to be a part of that team. It was awesome.”
Weight scored seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in seven games, falling second on the team only to Hull, his linemate.
“Every practice, every game, every shift we were out there together, it was fun,” Hull said. “I knew what I was supposed to do, he knew what he was supposed to do, and I think if you look at it, we had a lot of success playing together.”
In the hockey world, that victory is thought of as the United States’ second-most important international title, after the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Since then, more than 170 NHL players have graduated from the US NTDP, including current Islanders Rick DiPietro
and Al Montoya
, Islanders prospect Rhett Rakhshani
and Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane, all of whom grew up watching Weight on the national and international level.
* * *
From international superstars to NHL heroes, Weight and Guerin were also on-and-off again teammates, first suiting up together for the Edmonton Oilers, then later in their careers for the St. Louis Blues and finishing their time together with the Islanders.
|Weight skated in 38 games for the Anaheim Ducks in 2007-08. |
After hoisting the World Cup trophy in 1996, Guerin was traded from New Jersey to Edmonton in 1997, where Weight had been playing for the last three years. What began as a mutual friendship in the international tournament blossomed into a life-long friendship in Edmonton, still just as strong as when they first laced up their skates together.
Like every Oilers team since 1990, none have been able to repeat what those Mark Messier-led teams accomplished in the late ’80s. Weight and Guerin were part of four teams that qualified for the playoffs (1998-2001), but they never made it past the second round.
“When we played in Edmonton together, all of our playoff series against the Dallas Stars, we were always the underdog, and Dougie was always one of the guys leading the charge,” Guerin said.
He continued, “It was kind of like David vs. Goliath, but Dougie was in there every single night. He was a finesse player, a playmaker. But he was always leading the team in hits, leading the teams in the scrums and things like that. Just seeing this guy and saying, ‘Wow, this is kind of what it’s all about right here.’ Everybody just followed him.”
That’s exactly the kind of player Weight has been throughout his career. Not just on the ice, but behind the scenes, inside the locker room and within the community, he’s always led by example. It’s no wonder he’s served as captain for the Islanders and Oilers.
|Weight hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 after the St. Louis Blues made a selfless trade deadline transaction. |
“Doug is really good at adapting to whatever the locker room needs,” Leetch said. “If it’s a quiet locker room and it needs to have someone that’s serious and getting the message across all the time, that’s the role Doug takes. And if there are some players that have filled that role and they need someone to keep it looser and remind everybody in a different type of way, then he can take that role, too.”
Leetch continued, “He’s got a great sense of humor and yet his competitive level is so high.”
That competitive edge helped Weight throughout his career, but after 14 years of not being able to quench his thirst for the Stanley Cup, St. Louis made a selfless trade deadline transaction, sending the team’s leading scorer to fulfill his post-season dreams with the Carolina Hurricanes.
On June 14, 2006, Weight finally reached every NHLer’s ultimate goal as he raised the Stanley Cup.
|Weight reuinted with Bill Guerin when he signed with the Islanders as a free agent on July 2, 2008. |
From there, Carolina sent him back to St. Louis, where he spent the next year-and-a-half before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks during the 2007-08 season. The following year, Weight signed as a free agent with the Islanders, destined to reunite with Guerin, which felt like an overdue homecoming.
“Honestly, the day that Dougie decided to come to the Island was a big day for me,” Guerin said. “Not only was it great for the Islanders organization, but for my kids and for my wife. Our families are extremely close and just to have Doug and Allison back with us was great. It was like having one of your brothers move back home. It was awesome. It was so much fun to play together again. I was extremely grateful for that time.”
Now, after captaining the Islanders through the last two seasons, Weight is hanging up his skates and is preparing for the next step on his journey as Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager.