He thought about retirement. The word became part of Doug Weight
's vocabulary this summer. He brought it up with family and friends, including his hockey-playing pal Bill Guerin
. He wondered out loud if it was time.
Then Weight decided he was still good enough to play in the NHL, still worthy of earning that paycheck, so he put off any talk or thoughts of walking away.
"At the end of last year I was like, 'Geez, I'm not doing this again,' " Weight told NHL.com. "Thirty minutes later I found myself saying I can still play. The word 'confidence' is as big as anything and I probably lost a lot of my confidence. I have slowly gotten it back. I can still play the game. I can still skate the game."
He's proving as much this season with the New York Islanders
, currently the team's second leading scorer with 7 goals and 25 assists in 37 games. He also became the eighth American to reach 1,000 points when he assisted on two Richard Park
goals in a 5-4 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes
on Jan. 2.
"It was unbelievable for the team to stand up and give me a hand and the crowd, too," Weight said of the fans at Jobing.com Arena — a group that included about 30 family members and friends — who acknowledged the milestone when it was announced. "The U.S. has a lot of U.S. hockey fans and me being an American it's nice to do it on this soil. It was a very nice hand I got and I appreciate it."
Weight has also played for the Oilers, Blues, Hurricanes and Ducks, lifting the Stanley Cup in 2006 when Carolina beat Edmonton in seven games. This is his 18th season in the League and first with the Islanders, and Park was thrilled to play a role in his big moment.
"To be part of it, not only as a teammate but to get in on that accomplishment is something I'll always remember," Park said. "Things like that don't happen too much in this game. I think it speaks volumes about Doug as a hockey player and the dedication and sacrifice he's endured to get to that point."
Last season was a tough one for Weight, who started the season with the St. Louis Blues
and then spent time as a healthy scratch before a trade to Anaheim.
"I know what he went through last season and he's definitely, definitely rejuvenated," Islanders captain Bill Guerin
told NHL.com. "You can see it in his game and he's having a lot of fun. It couldn't get worse for him (last season)."
For the first time in his 17-year career, Weight found himself as nothing but a bit player last season for the Ducks, who acquired him from the Blues for Andy McDonald
in a salary-reducing deal so they could bring back Scott Niedermayer
He played in 38 games for Anaheim and managed only 14 points. Weight feels that he was underused by coach Randy Carlyle
- "a difference of opinion," is how Weight puts it - but he also blames himself for his lack of production with the Ducks.
"You can always have an excuse or point a finger … those are really easy to come by, but I don't think I handled it the best I could either," Weight said. "I don't think I played my best hockey. It's not the coach taking the confidence from you. As a professional you should have the responsibility to be at your best and confident.
"I certainly have some feelings about it, but by no means is it a one-sided argument. By no means did I play my best there. I should have demanded more of myself."
He's able to do that now for the Islanders because he recommitted himself to the game this past summer. Now he's part of a team that is rebuilding with youth augmented by veteran leadership.
"In 17 years you have learning experiences, ups and downs, and (last season) was definitely a low point, but it really made me recommit this summer and now I'm feeling pretty good on the ice," Weight said. "I also feel like there is more that I can do right now. We have a young team here and I have to continue to not be satisfied with how I'm playing. I have to try to get better."
The Islanders feel justified by signing Weight this summer because not only is he producing at his pre-Anaheim pace, he's been a strong influence on the club's young forwards Josh Bailey
, Kyle Okposo
and Blake Comeau
"It's the style he plays," Bailey told NHL.com of what draws his eye to Weight. "We're both passers, so I'm always watching him find the middle, do the little plays. I like to try to make those plays, too. He sets guys up with passes that they're not expecting and all of a sudden it's on the guys tape. I really admire that kind of stuff."
Comeau, who prides himself and working hard and thinking the game well, said he admires Weight's patience with the puck and his hockey sense.
"He reads the play so well and never panics, never forces anything," Comeau told NHL.com. "I think you can't teach that side of the game, it just comes as you get older and it's natural. He's got a lot of it."
Despite the Islanders' struggles this season, Comeau said Weight never shows up to the rink in a foul mood.
"He's the kind of guy that doesn't have a bad day," Comeau said. "He walks into the room and he always has a smile on his face, he's always up beat. As a young guy, those are the kinds of players you want to be around. He's the kind of person and player you want to be, too."
Weight said he feels "very energetic and very good with the puck." Maybe he doesn't quite feel in-his-20s good, but he's comfortable and "it's gratifying to this point."
"In 17 years you have learning experiences, ups and downs, and (last season) was definitely a low point, but it really made me recommit this summer and now I'm feeling pretty good on the ice. I also feel like there is more that I can do right now. We have a young team here and I have to continue to not be satisfied with how I'm playing. I have to try to get better." -- Doug Weight
"We have good kids that have aspirations to be good players, but I think the ball is in my court," Weight added. "With all the injuries and the responsibility the coach has given me, I had to take the challenge and go with it. Throughout my career I have thrived on that pressure, but you always try to show the young guys you can play. I want to be a good leader for them, but I want them to push me as much as possible, too."
For how long is still a mystery.
Weight bleeds orange and blue this season, but he'll likely be an unrestricted free agent come July 1 and that word could wind up in his vocabulary again.
Does he retire? Does he sign up to play again?
"We're 30 or so games in and it's tougher to wake up in the morning," Weight said. "I've really noticed that, but I don't see why I can't play. I have a family with three kids and it's a team decision now. I'm not looking too far ahead."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com