Injuries limited New York Islanders captain Doug Weight to 107 games during his three-year career on Long Island, but the 19-year NHL veteran may have had a bigger impact on the Islanders than on any of his previous five NHL clubs.
The New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks own a greater share of Weight’s gaudy offensive stats, which include the seventh all-time highest point total by an American-born player in NHL history, but the three years that Weight spent mentoring and leading the Islanders up-and-coming core players did more for the young squad than any number of goals and assists could have.
“As much as Doug wanted to be an Islander, we needed him to be an Islander,” said John Tavares
, a 20-year-old forward who’s led the team in scoring during each of his first two seasons. “Of course, we needed him for the way he plays the game and his Hall of Fame resume, but also for the presence he brings as a person and his attitude and work ethic to making not just our team better, but our whole organization.”
|Islanders captain Doug Weight and sophomore forward John Tavares celebrate a goal. (Getty Images) |
Weight’s two decades of NHL experience equipped him with expertise that extended beyond drawing X’s and O’s on a white board. He quickly became the unquestioned voice of the Islanders locker room, both to the media and amongst the players.
“The one word that comes to mind when you think of Doug Weight is ‘presence,’” said defenseman Travis Hamonic
, who’s rookie season in 2009-10 coincided with Weight’s final campaign. “Whenever he walks into a room, he’s one of those guys that just has everyone gravitate towards him.”
Presence may be his greatest asset when addressing a room, but Weight’s ability to make his teammates feel comfortable in one-on-one encounters has done wonders for the Islanders top young players over the last three seasons.
“I was lucky enough that Doug was the first player on the Islanders that I ever met and our friendship began the summer that I was drafted,” said Tavares. “He invited me to live on his property during my first season. I felt like he brought me in and let me be a part of his family and I was very grateful for that. Any advice or opinion I need, he is the first person I ask.”
Weight’s role in grooming the Islanders franchise player has been heavily publicized, but the special attention that he’s paid to other parts of the team’s young core extends beyond Tavares.
“Right from day one when I got called up, Doug really went out of his way to make me feel welcome and make me feel at home,” said Hamonic, who joined the team 20 games into the season and remained with the club for the remaining 62 contests.
Hamonic continued, “I can recall many conversations that Doug and I had, both personally and with the team, even about off-ice issues. He’s been there before and that’s the biggest thing when you’re a young guy coming into the league – it’s all new to you; new situations, new players, new settings. When you have someone that’s done it for as long as he’s been in the NHL, at the level that he’s done it, you really want to listen.”Josh Bailey
, the Islanders first round pick in 2008, was a rookie during Weight’s first season on Long Island in 2008-09. Now entering his fourth year with the team, Bailey has seen first-hand that Weight’s mentoring isn’t limited to rookie players.
“Ever since I came to the team, he’s always been a part of it, so I don’t know any different than having Dougie around,” said Bailey. “Especially in my first year breaking into the league, just having that presence around and being able to talk to him, I learned so much. But the older guys go to him too.
|Islanders captain Doug Weight mentors alternate captain Kyle Okposo during a game at Nassau Coliseum. (Getty Images) |
He continued, “I’ve seen all ages be able to go talk to him about anything. He’s been a huge presence for not only talking to young guys, but for everyone. I think if you’re 35, 19, or anywhere in between, he’s always that type of guy that you know you can turn to with anything.”
Weight’s absence will surely deliver a blow to the Islanders locker room, but his roster of hand-molded successors are determined to carry on their captain’s off-ice legacy.
“Hopefully some day, I’ll be that older veteran player and be able to repeat some of the things that I learned from him to some of the younger guys,” said Hamonic.
Further softening the blow was the announcement that Weight will serve as an Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager.
“I’d love to have him behind the bench,” said Bailey. “His input always means a lot and makes a huge difference. He’s so fresh. He was playing at the start of the year and then he went behind the bench. He’s not removed from the game at all and he just understands it. He just sees the game so well. It’s so easy to and relate to him.”
Whether Weight ends up behind the bench or elsewhere in the organization, Tavares is confident that his mentor will continue to play a crucial role in helping the Islanders achieve their ultimate goal.
“I know Dougie still has the desire and fire to compete for the Stanley cup,” Tavares said. “I believe he is going to stay an Islander for a while.”