Friday, December 6, 2013

Weight looks back fondly at 19-year NHL career

Former Blue's only regret: not winning Stanley Cup here with loaded teams

ST. LOUIS -- With 1,238 regular season games and another 97 playoff games under his belt, Doug Weight wouldn't change a thing about his NHL career.

Well, sort of.

Weight, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Monday along with former Blue Bill Guerin, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, former college coach Ron Mason and women's hockey player Cindy Curley, has been to the pinnacle of all levels in the NHL and representing USA Hockey.

From playing in three World Championships to a pair of Winter Olympic teams (including the silver medal-winning group in 2002) to a trio of World Cup appearances, Weight donned the USA jersey plenty of times and represented well.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Former Blue Doug Weight was indicted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of
Fame on Monday in Detroit.

And over a 19-year NHL career, Weight has 278 goals and 1,033 points as well as 23 goals and 72 points in the playoffs, winning a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

But Weight, now the senior advisor to the general manager and assistant coach of the New York Islanders, had one regret over a very successful NHL career:

"If there is any regret, it's here because I think we were good enough to go further," said Weight, who spent six seasons from 2001-08 playing for the Blues, where he had 295 points. "We had some teams that had our number and we had a couple really great opportunities, like 2003 is something that haunts me getting that (3-1 series lead on Vancouver before losing in seven games) and really having the West open up. Taking nothing away from Minnesota and Anaheim, that would have been our road to the Stanley Cup. That eats me away and obviously we had trouble beating that red and white team (Detroit) down the road."

At 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, Weight was not your prototypical center iceman of the NHL. He would be out of sorts in today's game, since the average center is usually in the 6-4, 220-pound range.

But for a Warren, Michigan native who played his collegiate hockey at Lake Superior State in his home state of Michigan, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming an NHL player when he was drafted in the second round by the New York Rangers in 1990.

"You grow up trying to get to the next year and be a good player and try to get to college," Weight said. "Then I just wanted to make the New York Rangers. Looking back after 20 years, I'm very fortunate and I enjoyed every minute of it. It went by too quickly for me.

"Every game you go home and you think about how you've got to play, how you've got to prepare yourself. It's the fastest game in the world as far as I'm concerned. There's always so much spontaneity and there's always going to be ... I think regret's a tough word though. I don't have any regrets though. Certain parts of your career, you look back and I wish (there) would have been different things at times. That's what makes it whole. You learn from those mistakes and you learn from adversity as well. You can't go back and nitpick. I was pretty fortunate and I loved it. I worked hard and here we are."

Weight spend two seasons with the Rangers before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Esa Tikkanen, another former Blue. Weight would spend the next eight seasons with the Oilers, where he had his only 100-point season in 1995-96 (104 points).

But then came the blockbuster of all trades for then-Blues GM Larry Pleau, who acquired Weight and prospect Michel Riesen for forwards Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner and defenseman Jan Horacek in 2001. The Blues would sign Weight to one of the more lucrative contracts in team history at five years and $45-million.

The Blues were loaded and making a run at the Stanley Cup. They already had Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger and also traded for Keith Tkachuk, among others. But when the Blues failed to make any head ways in the standings, a critical time in Weights life would reach a climax.

The Blues came out of the 2005 lockout laboring near the bottom of the league and Pleau, knowing the Blues were going nowhere in 2005-06, gave Weight the option of moving somewhere to win a Stanley Cup. It was obvious it wasn't going to be with the Blues, and it was his choice with a full no-trade clause in tote.

The Blues had a trade on the table with the Hurricanes, and Pleau, knowing Weight had a no-trade clause, wanted to run anything by the center before attempting to move forward.

The move to Carolina turned into a blessing in disguise, as Weight waived his no-trade clause and went to the Hurricanes along with the rights to Erkki Rajamaki for Mike Zigomanis, Jesse Boulerice, the rights to Magnus Kahnberg and draft picks on January 30, 2006.

"Incredible," Weight said. "Larry took me for coffee and let me know that that (offer from Carolina) was on the table. I had a day to mull it over. At that time, there were a lot of other rumors and there were some teams that were high-powered. Ottawa being one, so I'm thinking, 'Jeez! They're playing well but are they a contender?' But after talking to (Hurricanes GM) Jimmy Rutherford, Rod (Brind'Amour) and a couple guys on that team, it was a no-brainer and it was great, great organization. Until you're on a team like that, it reminded me immediately of 1996, the attitude of the World Cup team. It was like, 'We're not going to get beat.'

"It's funny. When you come out of those two times, it's so distinctively different than the teams I was on other times that had good teams and went far but didn't win. That to me was a huge learning experience. Thank God I did it."

After Weight's dream summer of winning the Cup with the Hurricanes, he didn't re-sign with Carolina or look anywhere else. Even with the Blues' transgressions in the standings post-lockout, Weight came back to the Blues after signing a free agent contract in 2006.

"I felt I had more to give to this organization in those years, that's for sure," Weight said. "I was coming off the best hockey I've ever played. It seemed as though for whatever reason, not to get into anything else, I wish I would have had a little more responsibility here. But this is a great place. It was a great place to play. I enjoyed playing for Joel (Quenneville), enjoyed Larry (Pleau)."

The Blues were going nowhere again in 2007, and the team wanted to gain more prospects and/or picks or younger players in the process and Weight was on the move again. But this time, it wasn't his choice.

The Blues, after initially balking at moving Weight, traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for Andy McDonald, told Weight to accept a deal or take on a lesser role with the team. He reluctantly accepted the trade and moved to Anaheim despite his family loving life in St. Louis and kids enrolled in school.

"I was pretty fortunate to spend eight-and-a-half years in Edmonton and go to a city and as you said, go win a Cup and come back (to St. Louis) and I don't have to leave my house and my kids never had to change schools," Weight said. "To that point in my life, I was 37 and pretty fortunate. On the other side now, I realize there are business decisions to be made, but looking back, if you want me to be frank, yeah, that could have been handled a little differently. You're told something and then I responded to it and did what I decided to do and told that was it. Later it was brought back up.

"I was just a little embarrassed by that and a little perturbed. But in saying that, there was no spite involved. There's no lack of professionalism involved. It's a decision that you have to make at certain times. Then they re-thought it and maybe they shouldn't have told me what they told me. But that's it, and it happens. The organization as a whole is well-run. It's a great place. Yeah, you're sour at times because you're leaving and you have to leave. That was a tough time, but I'm completely over it and I still have the utmost respect for everybody."

Weight finished his career with the Islanders and retired following the 2011 season. He was immediately given his roles within the Islanders organization.

"I get to be on both sides of the fence," Weight said. "I get to coach and allow these guys I know and I get to sit in the office with Garth and help him build a team. Really, I'm learning a lot, working with great people. Jack (Capuano's) a great coach. He empowers me and Garth does the same. We're striving to get better. We're not where we want (to be), but we're close. It's fun to come to work every day and trying to win.

"You miss it. There's nothing like playing. It's like having the fuel the day of the game and the butterfly in your stomach, whether it's the 1,000th game or your first. But I'm working with good people and I like what we're doing. it's the next best thing. You're around the game you love. ... They trust me. We're changing some things and we have a John Tavares now and we're moving to a different place. We're going to try and keep building and build a Stanley Cup contender. That's what we want to do."
(Getty Images)
Doug Weight's lone Stanley Cup celebration came after
the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers
in 2006.

Weight had initially planned on taking time off to recover from a back injury which ultimately led to his retirement as a player.

"I was going to take a couple years off. I ended up breaking my back my last year and I was home for the whole year," Weight recalled. "When I was offered the job (with the Islanders), my wife said, 'You should take it. Don't take any more (time) off. You've been home enough.' I said, 'Don't worry, I already did.' We were both happy about it. I didn't want to coach. I didn't want to be on the bench. Garth thought it was important. He thought it was smooth transition and I could help Jack. It's been a good thing. I've enjoyed it. I've gotten better at it. I feel like I've got the fire to do it. I have a lot of ideas about it and it's fun. The video gets extremely long, but at the end of it, I feel like I've finished my paper. It's good and you see what the teams are doing and you find ways to tweak it and most importantly, to touch these individuals, try to get them better. You try to get them confident, get their respect, make them accountable and you have their respect at the same time. That's a great challenge. And the other side of the game's great. I love it too. I've got a pretty good gig."

And Weight's got a permanent place in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame now.

"It was real special being able to do (the hall of fame ceremony) in Detroit," Weight said. "Certainly going in with the class that I went in, where I won my Stanley Cup with Mr. (Peter) Karmanos, who I grew up playing against, and of course Ron Mason and Billy (Guerin) and Cindy (Curley). It was a great time with all my family and friends. It was good."

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