Guerin, Weight lead U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class
DETROIT -- Through all the teams, through all the years, Bill Guerin encapsulated his friendship with Doug Weight at the beginning of his speech Monday during the induction ceremony for the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Dougie told me he has an A speech and a B speech," Guerin said, laughing. "So I better tread lightly."
A friendship that began in the early 1990s at an Olympic festival when the two were amateurs came full circle Monday, when they were inducted together into the U.S. Hockey Hall.
Joining them in this year's group was former Michigan State University coach Ron Mason, women's hockey pioneer Cindy Curley, and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos.
In addition, USA Today national hockey writer Kevin Allen was honored with the Lester Patrick Award for contributions to hockey in the United States.
The stars of the show here at the Sound Board Theater at the Motor City Casino, however, were Guerin and Weight. The two were teammates on three NHL teams (Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders), the 1996 United States World Cup team, and the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympics.
"It couldn't have worked out any better," Guerin said. "Dougie is not only the ultimate teammate, but the ultimate friend. He's always got your back, he's always got your best interests. He's got a great heart. He's got a great family. He's just a great guy. I love the guy."
Their friendship dates to an Olympic festival in St. Cloud, Minn., in 1990.
"We were doing one of those camps in the summer," Weight said. "He was with his Boston boys, beaking all us Michigan guys. It tended to be you knew the four or five guys from your area and four or five days into it you'd meet the other guys. We'd have a good time."
They were reunited on the memorable 1996 U.S. World Cup team that saw the Americans win the best-of-3 final against Canada by winning the final two games in Montreal. Weight had three goals and four assists in seven games; Guerin had two assists and 17 penalty minutes.
In January 1998, they were reunited again. The New Jersey Devils traded Guerin to the Edmonton Oilers, and the two formed a productive partnership.
"I had a chance to play with him in Edmonton when we got him in a trade," Weight said. "I was ecstatic. We had a great time out there. He loved it. Every time I played with Billy, it was great. I enjoyed it."
Partnerships with the Blues and Islanders cemented the friendship.
"The relationship just took off then between myself and Doug and [wives] Kara and Allison and now our kids," Guerin said. "Our kids match up. It's fantastic. It's been a lot of holidays spent together, lot of vacations spent together. They're a special family."
Guerin isn't the only member of this year's class that Weight has a deep relationship with. A Detroit native, Weight played with and against Karmanos' Compuware youth programs, and decades later they won a Stanley Cup together with the Carolina Hurricanes.
"Winning a Stanley Cup is special," Karmanos said. "Winning a Stanley Cup with a kid that played on teams that we sponsored and played on teams we didn't sponsor made it even more special."
To honor his relationship with Karmanos, Weight wore his Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup championship ring.
"I was thinking about wearing an Olympic ring or a World Cup ring," Weight said. "But I had to wear that because he's here and going in with me."
Karmanos was inducted as much for his success with the Compuware program as for anything he's accomplished in the NHL. The Compuware program now features teams for boys and girls of all ages, and has sent a number of players to the NHL, among them Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros. And it all started because Karmanos was looking for a way to spend more time with his children.
"I decided in 1973, 1974 to take my kids skating because we had started this company and I wasn't spending any time with them," Karmanos said. "Trying to start a business and working the hours you have to work and not seeing your children and the chance on a Saturday and Sunday to take them to learn-to-skate programs really seemed to go hand in hand. From that point of view hockey was as great game."
While Karmanos enjoyed working with youth players, Mason was getting them as teenagers and helping turn them into men. In 36 seasons at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green State and Michigan State, Mason retired in 2002 with more wins than any NCAA coach.
"It all comes down to recruiting them," Mason said. "You're going to go to school, you're going to get a degree. Your hockey ability is going to develop to a certain extent and hopefully we can help you get it to the next level. If not, you're going to have a great life. I think college hockey especially has that opportunity to at least put you in a position to be successful."
Mason said he always wanted to be a teacher and a coach but after some time he realized it was too much work.
"I was able to teach and I was able to coach," he said. "That all happened when I was in graduate school. I got sick of going to school. I came home one night and I told my wife, 'I can't keep this up.' Going to school all those years got to me. I said, 'I wouldn't mind being just a hockey coach.'"
It worked out well for four decades.
"It's something special," Mason said. "This isn't something that you dream about. You dream about winning the lottery maybe, but not something like this. If you put a lot of years in like I did, both as a player and as a coach and an athletic director, it's nice to be rewarded at the end of it. It tells you you did some things right and you worked hard at what you do and you loved your profession."
Curley was a pioneer in the women's game, first as a four-season star at Providence College then with United States teams, starting with the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship. In five games, she set tournament records in goals (11), assists (12) and points (23).
"It was such an honor to put on the USA Hockey jersey," Curley said. "It was hard to know what to expect because we hadn't had a team before, but every piece was outstanding. It wasn't fun losing to Canada (the U.S. won the silver medal), but the rest of it was great."
Allen, in his 28th season as the national hockey writer for USA Today, said winning the Lester Patrick Award gave him a deeper understanding of what it meant for all the players he interviewed who had won the Stanley Cup.
"It's really been a humbling experience," Allen told NHL.com. "I've interviewed so many guys when they win the Cup and they said it's surreal and indescribable and not knowing what to say, that's kind of what I'm going with now. I guess I understand what they're saying. I'm not comparing it to winning a Cup, but I think the emotions for them, it's similar to what I feel."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said what stood out to him about all the honorees Monday was the class and dignity with which they carried themselves.
"This is a group that not only contributed to the growth of the game in the United States, not only had careers of excellence, they're all really nice people," Bettman told NHL.com. "It's always great to get the hockey family together and celebrate excellence and accomplishments, particularly when it's really good people."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor