Doug Weight

Clearly, Doug Weight displays heart in every NHL game he's played - all 1,220 of them

I feel sorry for New York Islanders’ captain Doug Weight because he, like about a billion other athletes before  him, has failed to correctly answer the question, “When should I retire?” According to reports, the 39-year old Weight has signed a one-year contract to continue playing for the New York Islanders in 2010-11. Last year, as the Islanders’ captain, Weight made, with bonuses, US$2.2M. To earn that 2.2 mil, Weight scored exactly one goal in 36 games. He missed 46 with torn labrum and rotator cuff injuries. Doug, it was time to say goodbye – but you blew it. Why can’t athletes figure this out?  

I get that they have been incredibly talented players with every single team for which they’ve ever suited up. When they played growing up, they were better than every other player on all their teams. Weight, for example, will never, ever make even close to two mil-a-year in any other job he ever does. But, for Pete’s sakes, look around, Doug. You’re done. What more do you have to do?  

Well, let’s check off the list. Have you won a Stanley Cup? Yes, you have. In 2006, your Carolina Hurricanes took the Edmonton Oilers in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final. Sadly, you missed the end of that series with – wait for it – an injury. And I love the story of how you spent your day with the Stanley Cup. http://bit.ly/ahuxDG.  

Let’s see, what else would be on that list? You played your first NHL game for the Rangers in the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s a long time. How about 1,000 career points…do you have that? Hey, you have! On January 2, 2009, you became just the eighth American-born NHLer to reach 1,000 that night in Phoenix. If you’ve got 1,000 points, you must also have played 1,000 games. Yep. 1,220. That puts you in the top 75 all time. Guess what, Doug? You are done.  

Guy Lafleur

Canadiens' superstar Guy Lafleur had no idea when to walk away from the game - evidenced by him in a Rangers' jersey

But Weight is like so many other athletes, not just NHL players. I shake my head when I think about Montréal Canadiens’ legend Guy Lafleur, who retired in 1984 then, four years later, made a comeback with the New York Rangers and Québec Nordiques. Pitiful to watch.  

Barry Sanders

When he retired in July 1999, Lions' running back Barry Sanders was just 1,457 yds behind Walter Payton's all-time NFL rushing mark

Many great players are taken from the game early by injury. Bobby Orr is the biggest name in that group, but Mike Bossy is right up there. And a very, very rare few actually retire a bit early. Ken Dryden comes to mind immediately. In the NFL, Detroit Lions’ running back Barry Sanders left the game in the summer of 1999, when he was just 30 years old, and poised to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Tough-as-nails Cleveland Browns’ star Jim Brown retired after just nine NFL seasons. The Sporting News voted him the greatest professional football player ever. Brown was just 28 when he walked away and began a career as an actor – The Dirty Dozen, Any Given Sunday and way too many television appearances to list.  

A small handful have walked away early. A small handful walk away at the right time. A larger group have injuries show them the door. Don’t worry, Doug, you’re not alone in being unable to recognize when to put on a suit, shed a few tears, thank “Smitty” and “MacT” and “Roddy” and say goodbye. But guess what, Doug, that day’s coming – whether you want it to or not.

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17 Responses to “Doug Weight is like many other athletes – they have no idea when to retire”

  1. Blosby says:

    Have you considered the fact that some guys just can’t let go? Maybe the fact that he can’t retire is a reflection of his self-confidence. Perhaps Doug thinks he will be nothing without hockey…

    Or maybe he’s afraid he won’t be able to change his diet after he retires and continue to consume (sob) too many carbs that he won’t require for ATP energy…maybe he’ll become (gasp!) another fat, old, hockey player, a small flame of his former self (weep). I don’t blame him for sticking around! HANG IN THERE DOUG! And cut back on the steak…

  2. Bobby says:

    Give the guy a break. If I was a pro and figured I could get one more year out of my body and earn a couple mill, I’d do it. Besides, you don’t know what the team has in store for him. Maybe he’s way too valuable in the locker room to let him go – so they keep him on for his leadership but cut back a little on minutes on ice. He’s still playing one of professional sports’ toughest games as he heads into his forties! I’d do it too – it sure beats being a desk jockey.

  3. JP says:

    They should invent a new league for guys who know they’re too beat up to play with the young guns, but still have plenty left in the tank to play with other guys like themselves – sort of a “Masters Hockey League”. That way as fans, you wouldn’t have to let go either.

  4. The Big Mouth says:

    The only “Way-Past-Their-Prime” league that has any value is golf’s Champions Tour. And even that only works if about half-a-dozen marquee names show up. Athletes need to learn when to retire. Period.

  5. Shifty says:

    As a fan, I agree with you. But if I were an athlete instead of a couch potato, I’d play as long as I was having fun and somebody wanted me.

    Two words: “Money!”

    If someone is handing it out, may as well line up.

  6. The Big Mouth says:

    And that’s the problem, Shifty, there’s always some moronic GM who is, indeed, handing it out.

  7. Shifty says:

    And that’s why I hate people ragging on the players for having outrageous salaries. Hell, some GM offered them the coin. Should they turn it down?

    Perhaps this is just another sign that the league should contract. Let the non viable teams fold, redistribute the players and create better battles for jobs. Maybe that will help with everyones desire for more goals…increase the talent pool through attrition.

  8. The Big Mouth says:

    Oh, please, do not get me started on contraction. We will be here forever. I HATE, HATE, HATE – with a passion – how many teams are now in the NHL. If the NHL was comprised of 20 teams, it would be the greatest league in the history of leagues. And no teams, I mean NO teams, anywhere that it doesn’t snow. Sorry, L.A., but you are OUT!

  9. Shifty says:

    If the NFL can survive without a team in L.A., then so can the NHL. (of course, in L.A. you’re only an hour and a half away from snow in the San Bernardinos, you can ski in the morning and beach in the afternoon…. ok, now I’m just jealous and petty)

    So Florida…there is nothing redeeming there. And now their beaches are oily. Florida is clearly OUT!

  10. The Big Mouth says:

    Well, if we are going to get right down to it, here’s who’s out – Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta, Carolina, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas and Nashville. Then, Phoenix moves to Winnipeg and Quebec City gets an expansion team. Voila – perfect 22-team NHL.

  11. Shifty says:

    Good call…make it so #1!

  12. Shifty says:

    But what about the Hammer and Jim Balsillie?

  13. Don McGowan says:

    I hear you but if a player has been in the league that long and Weight was a above average player, then I don’t think money is the issue. Sure it is being offered to him but I think it is ” for the enjoyment of the game ” that Weight and other similar athletes in his position stick around. They love the game and the social aspects that come with it and I’m sure in their minds ” they have one more year left.”

  14. The Big Mouth says:

    You are right, Don. The social aspect is key, isn’t it? Almost to a man, retired players say they miss “the guys in the room.” When you think about it, in what other job would you have a roomful of other guys going right to the wall for each other? Firefighters, maybe…but that’s it.

  15. Stat1stique says:

    2.2 millions is enough for me to play another saison !

    Beside, Doug is not playing on the first line. I believe there is place in teams without the roosters of the Capitals or the Sharks for those veterans. The bring something else to the team.

  16. Peter Giles says:

    Let’s get real- where else can you make that kind of money to have fun…seriously. Would you leave when they are willing to pay that kind of money?

  17. Big Mouth says:

    I guess it would depend on what you had lined up after the game. For a guy like Doug Weight, I would assume he’d continue in the game as long as he’d like.

    Sure is a Catch 22 for players reaching the ends of their careers.

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