By: Will Burchfield
Every time Doug Weight returns to Joe Louis Arena, he takes a look around.
“It’s always special. I think it’s great for the city moving to a new building, but it’s always bittersweet when you say goodbye to a building that has not only been here for so long, but achieved so much,” said Weight, who grew up on the east side of Detroit.
As a kid, he took numerous trips to the Joe, cheering on the Red Wings every chance he got.
“They had so many great teams and great players,” he said. “This organization has just been sound for so long, one of the best in sports. So those are some great memories, not only for me but for the city.”
Weight is back in town as head coach of the Islanders, who take on the Wings on Friday night. He’s familiar with the visitor’s bench in the Joe, where his youth hockey team, the St. Clair Shores Falcons, used to take on the Little Caesars.
“I watched a lot of hockey here, played a lot of hockey here, played a lot of games in my youth,” Weight recalled.
The Red Wings moved from the Detroit Olympia to Joe Louis Arena in 1979, when Weight was eight years old.
“I think I saw maybe two games at Olympia and the rest of my life has been this building, really,” he said.
After graduating from Notre Dame High School in 1989, Weight attended Lake Superior State University. He played hockey there for two years, returning to the Joe in 1991 for the CCHA championship. The Lakers took the title by toppling Michigan, 6-5 in overtime.
“Winning the CCHA tournament was special in this building,” said Weight, who had a horde of family and friends cheering him on.
Weight’s hockey career was just getting started, of course. He went on to play for 20 years in the NHL, racking up over 1,000 points, participating in four All-Star Games and winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. But his homecoming still sticks out.
“My first game here was pretty special,” said Weight, a 20-year-old rookie on the Rangers at the time. “I think my first faceoff was against Stevey and I’m thinking, ‘What in the heck is going on?’ I grew up watching these guys,” Weight said.
The Wings won that night – 6-5 in overtime, ironically enough – the first of many defeats for Weight in his hometown arena.
“It maybe brought the luster down a little bit, all the losses compiled over the years, with this team and how good they were,” Weight said, laughing. “But I’ll always be a fan, especially of this building.”
Weight was born in South Macomb hospital, so his hometown is listed as Warren.
“They throw it down on the birth certificate,” he said, “but I lived in Detroit. It is very special to come back.”
Not long ago, his son had a hockey tournament in the area, giving Weight’s family a glimpse of his roots.
“My wife came down and drove my kids by the house. They were a little shocked,” he laughed. “But the city’s come a long way. It’s great to see it thriving and it’s great to have the sports teams down here.”
It won’t be Weight’s last trip to the Joe. The Islanders, 5-0-1 since Weight replaced Jack Capuano as head coach in January, return to Detroit later this month.
“So no tears shed yet,” Weight said. “We’re here for business.”