Alternate version of the article below. This version was picked up by The Hockey News.
Doug Weight, a 16-year NHL veteran, was just entering high school as the Steve Yzerman era was beginning in Detroit. Only five years his senior, Stevie Y was the kind of player Weight modelled himself after.
“Yzerman was always my favourite player,” said Weight, a Warren, Mich., native and self-proclaimed Red Wings fan. “The way he played, the way he carried himself, that’s what made him great.”
Few would dispute the fact Yzerman was one of the greatest players in NHL history. Besides his knack for scoring big goals and racking up impressive statistics, it was Yzerman’s leadership that marked him as a true great, captaining the Wings for nearly two decades.
According to Weight, Yzerman is the benchmark for what great leadership really is: being genuinely dedicated to the team.
“What a leader does is prepare themself to be a professional. Be early (to the rink), be yourself and play hard every shift, even if it’s just practice,” Weight said.
Although there is a sort of romanticism surrounding leadership and what makes a great leader in the NHL, Weight says veterans shouldn’t bark orders at the young players.
“I don’t try and go out of my way to take a player under my wing, but if I see a young guy who needs to be talked to as far as something he can improve on, then I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ve been in that situation before as a young player and you don’t really want to hear something every time you come off the ice.”
Although professionals must give their all regardless of where they play, Weight acknowledges there is always one team you dream of playing for. And for athletes, dreams of becoming a hometown hero are not uncommon.
Growing up watching stars like Gordie Howe, Yzerman and others who helped define the game and make Detroit great, only intensified Weight’s dream. For years, he’d hoped to wear the red-and-white of Motown and streak down the ice at Joe Louis Arena in front of a sold out crowd.
Weight was almost traded to Detroit from St. Louis in 2002, but the deal fell through at the last minute.
“There are a lot of factors involved with trades and free agent signings, you can’t always pick where you play,” he said. “I was always a huge fan (of Detroit) and that jersey will always have a special place in my heart, but it’s an honor to just be in this league, play a great sport and be able to make a living off of it.”
Justin Del Giudice is a public relations student at Seneca College. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 2008. You can find his multi-purpose blog HERE.