Rafalski and Weight Call it a Career

The NHL lost two veterans to retirement this week, Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski (11 seasons) and New York Islanders center Doug Weight (19 seasons). Both American players had stellar careers, highlighted by winning every hockey player’s dream — the Stanley Cup.

Rafalski joined the New Jersey Devils in 1999-2000 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Wisconsin, whom the team’s scouts found playing over in Europe (for four years!). Perhaps his size (5’10”, 195 lbs.) was the reason he was overlooked by the other 29 NHL clubs, but he seamlessly fit in on the Devils’ blue line and partnered with legend Scott Stevens immediately and never looked back. As a 25-year-old rookie he helped guide New Jersey to a championship in 2000 and a return to the Finals in 2001. He was a major part of the Devils 2003 Cup win as well and also won silver medals with Team USA at the Olympics in 2002 and 2010. In 2007 he signed with the Red Wings as a free agent to be closer to his hometown of Dearborn, Michigan and the move paid off for both parties — Rafalski and Detroit hoisted the Cup in 2008 and made in back to the Finals in 2009. This past season he spent a lot of time playing hurt and missed a handful of games, which can be eye-opening for some athletes that the time has come to hang up the skates. “There wasn’t a day this year that I wasn’t on the training table,” he said at his retirement press conference, “That gets tiring.” He retired with one year ($6 million) left on his contract, citing that family is most important now, “What I’ll be doing first and foremost is serving my family; I’ll be definitely looking to help others. I don’t know what that’s going to entail yet, but that will be my focus.”

Rafalski’s career totals: (regular season) 79 goals, 438 assists, 515 points, plus-178, 833 games/(playoffs) 29 goals, 71 assists, 100 points, plus-42, 165 games/(olympics) 13 points in 17 games

Weight had a much different path to the NHL, he was drafted 34th overall by the New York Rangers in the 1990 NHL Draft out of Lake Superior State University and made his NHL debut in a 1990 playoff game with the Blueshirts. He played parts of two seasons with the Rangers before being traded to Edmonton in a deal that helped New York secure the 1994 Stanley Cup. A scoring dynamo with the Oilers, he was part of one of the most dynamic lines in hockey with Bill Guerin and Ryan Smyth; Weight never reached the Finals in Edmonton and was sent to St. Louis in another blockbuster deal prior to the 2001-02 season.  After two and a half seasons with the Blues he was traded to Carolina in 2006 and finally lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup after the Hurricanes’ amazing playoff run, topping the Edmonton Oilers in a thrilling seven-game series. The following summer he re-signed with the Blues and played another 111 games before being shipped to Anaheim at the trade deadline. Prior to the 2008-09 season he signed with the Islanders, a place he and his family now call home. He provided leadership and guidance for the young Isles and was almost like a father-figure for their players; he even had John Tavares live with his family during Tavares’ rookie season. A severe back injury limited his time to only 18 games this past season, but at the end of the season he resurfaced  behind the Isles’ bench as an assistant coach, a preview of things to come. In announcing his retirement on May 26, it was also announced that he is now an assistant coach and special assistant ‘to’ GM Garth Snow (sounds very much like Dwight Schrute’s job!).

Weight’s career totals: (regular season) 278 goals, 755 assists, 1,033  points, 80 power play goals, minus-58, 1,238 games/(playoffs) 23 goals, 49 assists, 72 points, minus-13, 97 games/(olympics) 8 points in 16 games

Are they both Hall-of-Famers? Is just one of them destined for the Hall or will neither make it? Hard to say, but I think Weight could make it. They both will surely make the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. I’d just like to add that I had the privilege of interviewing both players during their careers and they were both class acts who made my job fun and a lot easier.

Devils-Kings Postgame Quotes [01.31.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes following the Devils 3-2 loss to the Kings on Sunday night:

Martin Brodeur:

Did you feel tired at all, with all of the games that you have played so far?

“Ask my trainer, he’ll tell you; that’s a stupid question you just asked me there. I play the game, as hard as I can all the time. Getting twenty shots a game; I don’t think you get tired from that, that’s for sure.”

Did you see the tying goal?

“I saw him shoot it, but when it came close to me I was expecting it to hit (Ryan) Smyth in front of me and it just kind of hit the side of my leg and snuck in.”

On the winning goal there was a crowd of players in front of you…

“I saw him (Drew Doughty) shoot and I just went down; Smyth did a great job screening me there.”

Johnny Oduya:

Talk about your goal that opened the scoring tonight…

“I got a pass from Zach (Parise) there across (the ice) and I just tried to shoot it on the far side there, I saw some guys going to the net and it went in off of a skate.”

Obviously a disappointing end to the game, can you put a finger on any one thing that went wrong?

“No I think it’s just a general feel at this time, obviously for the second game (in a row) it’s not something we usually do; we have a lead, usually we feel pretty good and play confident — somehow that slipped out. It’s something we have to talk about and not worry about too much, but keep playing in games and not sit back.”

Wayne Simmonds:

Were you shooting to score there?

“Oh no, definitely not, I was just shooting for a rebound or for Smyth to tip it; I got lucky and it went in.”

Did you see that Smyth was there in front when you shot it?

“Definitely, that’s the first thing I looked for. I looked to see if someone was in front of the net and I just fired it at the net.”

You guys are on a nice winning streak, now that you get to bring home and play in front of your fans…

“I think it’s great, we were in a little slump at home before we left for the road — I think we won five straight on the road trip and now we just have to build that up and carry it over. Our fans deserve better than out last home stand, that’s for sure.”

What has been the secret to success for you guys on the road, now that you’ve won six in a row away from LA?

“I think it’s just resiliency, like tonight we were down and we never gave up. That’s pretty much the way we’ve play all year — we get down a goal or two and we just never say die; it’s worked out really well for us.”

Anze Kopitar:

Talking about the successful road trip…

“If somebody would say (before the road trip) that we were going to be 4-1, I think everybody would pretty much take that; being 5-0 it’s obviously great. I think now it’s time to bring that attitude and that energy at home because we have to start winning some home games too.”

How big was the goal scored late in the second period, instead of being down two goals, it’s only one?

“It was huge. It’s something that, always when you get a goal in the last minute of a period it’s great; they have something to think about in the locker room during intermission and that gave us a little boost. I thought we came out a little stronger in the third period and we definitely shot the puck a little more; and it paid off for us.”

Did you know that this is the first time the Kings have gone 5-0 on a road trip in history?

“That was the first time? That’s great then (smiles), we’re making history. We’ve been playing some decent hockey, right from the first game of this road trip I thought we were playing good hockey and now it’s paying off for us. Maybe we weren’t the better team out there tonight, but we’ll take it every time; two points is two points.”

When you’re winning, this is the kind of stuff that happens right?

“Exactly; and with the opposite, when you’re struggling you can shoot 50 shots and still lose the game — its funny how the game goes. But like I said we’ll definitely take these two points and go home.”

Can you talk about the winning power play goal?

“We were moving the puck around and just trying to get shots. They play a pretty tight box and obviously with Marty in the net they have a world-class goaltender. There’s not a whole lot you can do but shoot the puck, so Drew found a lane there, ripped it and luckily for us it went in.”

Was it a point of emphasis to get bodies in front of Brodeur tonight?

“Yeah, absolutely; we have one of the best in the league I think with Ryan Smyth — he’s really stingy around the net. (Dustin) Brown is in there too, he’s a decent screener too. At that point, especially at that time of the game, you just want to get bodies in front and shots at the net.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Two key things that went wrong tonight?

“The last two goals, the penalty. Not just to let Doughty shoot on the PK and the penalty.”

You had two PP’s when you were still leading by one, did you think the guys worked it with enough intensity?

“We still had good chances; we had good chances to put the game away, but the goalie was good and made some good saves. We could’ve been a little better on certain plays there, but as I said we had our chances.”

You had a 2-0 lead late in the second period, was it a bad play by (Mike) Mottau that led to their first goal?

“Yeah, that will happen though. You can recover and we did; things like that will happen, this doesn’t bother me at all.”

Do you think Marty could have stopped the tying goal?

“He could have stopped that, definitely; a shot from the side that I know there’s a guy in front of him — but I always say when you’re due to lose, there’s something like that that will get in the net, some shots like that. When everyone is confident, those goals just don’t happen.”

What do you tell the guys to get them to recover (from this)?

“Well I have to talk to myself first; that’s a loss that I still didn’t digest so we’ll see tomorrow.”

What You Need to Know [11.21.09]

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1029

This week’s highlights:

Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin proves he doesn’t need twin Daniel to score at the NHL level, San Jose’s Dany Heatley nets his 2nd hat trick of the young season, Maxim Afinogenov finds his mojo in Atlanta and LA’s Ryan Smyth & Montreal’s Brian Gionta become the latest scorers to catch the injury bug…

What’s your number?

Have a favorite player who changed teams this offseason and you want to be the first on your block to sport his new number and jersey? Well I did a little research and came up with this little list of old faces in new places (with some new numbers):

Scott Gomez # 91, Montreal
Brian Gionta # 21, Montreal

Saku Koivu # 11, Anaheim
Jay Bouwmeester # 4, Calgary
John Madden # 11, Chicago
Marian Hossa # 81, Chicago
Nikolai Khabibulin # 35, Edmonton
Ryan Smyth # 94, Los Angeles
Rob Scuderi # 7, Los Angeles
Martin Havlat # 14 Minnesota
John Tavares # 91, NY Islanders
Marian Gaborik # 10, NY Rangers
Chris Higgins # 21, NY Rangers
Donald Brashear # 87, NY Rangers
Alex Kovalev # 27, Ottawa
Chris Pronger # 20, Philadelphia
Ray Emery # 29, Philadelphia
Mike Rupp # 17, Pittsburgh
Brendan Morrison # 9, Washington
Mike Knuble # 22, Washington

So head on over to your favorite team’s site or NHL.com and order your new jersey for the 2009-10 season today!