Pictured from left are Jeff Napierala (Dowd presenter), Jim Dowd, LSSU President Dr. Tony McLain, Doug Weight, and Doug Weight, Sr. (Doug's father and presenter). Photo by John Shibly/LSSU.
By TOM PINK, LSSU Public Relations
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Two of Laker hockey's greatest players who have enjoyed impressive National Hockey League careers recently returned to the campus where they first garnered national notoriety. Jim Dowd and Doug Weight were inducted into the Hall of Fame at Lake Superior State University on June 26.
Dowd was part of the 1988 national champion Laker hockey team that was inducted into the LSSU Hall of Fame in 2005. Weight didn't get a chance to play in an NCAA final, but he led the team to two NCAA quarter-final appearances in the two seasons that he played for LSSU. Both went on to become very successful players in the NHL.
"It's an honor to even be able to stand up here," said LSSU President Tony McLain in addressing the honorees in the LSSU Arts Center. Playing on the words found on the Taffy Abel Arena scoreboard, McLain noted "There are two categories of people who come to campus, 'visitors' and 'Lakers.' Visitors become Lakers or 'wannabe' Lakers….It's hard not to fall in love with this place.
"If you go to Taffy Abel Arena and just take one lap around the building you'll be struck by the history and tradition as you look at the trophies, uniforms and displays," he added, ticking off the statistics that include nine Olympians (including Weight) and many All-Americans (including Dowd and Weight). "The awards go on and on. No other college of this size can match it.
"I'm very proud just to be talking to you about it," McLain continued. "I can't imagine how proud you honorees must be for contributing to it…Your accomplishments off and on the ice won't end here tonight. Because of you, we're proud to say we're Lakers."
In the 13th celebration of the program, emcee Bill Crawford asked for a few minutes of silence for one of the persons who started it, Bud Cooper, longtime director of LSSU Athletics, who died last fall.
"Bud started the Hall of Fame," Crawford said, noting that Cooper had shared the broadcast booth with him when the Laker hockey team won the NCAA championship in 1988 at Lake Placid. "Not a day goes by that we don't think about him and miss him."
Former teammate and line mate Jeff Napierala introduced Jim Dowd as the evening's first recipient, saying he was blessed to play right wing with both Dowd and Weight.
Napierala discussed the excitement of playing during those seasons and said it continued even after college.
"I flew down when Jimmy played in the Stanley Cup finals (1995 with the New Jersey Devils) and felt like I experienced it through him," Napierala said.
Napierala laughed when he noted that in spite of forgetting his ID card when the 1988 team visited President Ronald Reagan at the White House, "…he was able to get right next to President Reagan when they took the picture."
In discussing their years at LSSU, Napierala said, "We met as a team – 14 incoming freshmen – and I knew right away I was going to like this guy…He helped me through…He played like a kid having fun every night – an incredible hockey player who loved to play, and a good friend…On behalf of all of the players, congratulations, Jimmy."
Both honorees had plenty of people to thank for helping them become who they are today.
"I tell people all the time that if it was not for LSSU, I wouldn't be where I am today," Dowd said. "I was a kid from New Jersey who basically grew up with nothing and the coaches here were the best I could have."
He joked that because of his background one of the things that attracted him to play for LSSU was the offer of free hockey sticks, but was serious when he said his coaches instilled in him an appreciation for hard work.
"They told me to work hard and good things will happen. The harder you work, the luckier you'll get. I tell my kids that every day."
Dowd thanked many in the audience, including two favorite professors Deb McPherson and Madan Saluja, and former equipment manager Gil Somes and his wife Marge, who introduced Dowd to venison chili.
"I loved showing up every day," Dowd said. "I don't regret one second of my time at Lake State."
Both Dowd and Napierala remembered their former teammate Tim Breslin, who died of cancer in 2005. Following his acceptance speech, Dowd invited his former teammates in the audience on to the stage for a group photo.
Honoree Doug Weight was introduced by his father, Doug Weight Sr., who said he rarely missed a game during the two seasons Weight played for the Lakers.
"I wanted him to get out and meet people and get to know his surroundings, but I really didn't have a clue as to what went on during the week here," Weight said. "But on the weekends, I knew what he was doing. I was there with very few exceptions, making the 700-mile round trip.
Weight said he moved farther north in 2006 and soon after "recognized how important Lake Superior is to northern Michigan."
Weight credited his close-knit family for helping his son choose LSSU for his collegiate career. "His time as a Laker left an impression on him and helped to form Doug's character. He has remained close with his Laker family."
"He's taken us on quite a road...an NHL captain, an Olympian and now a family man – we're watching his coaching debut and waiting to see what's next and we're very proud of him as a husband, father, and teammate."
The influence of everyone from his family to his teammates was not lost on Weight Jr., who recognized many of those who have helped him along the way, including the LSSU BlueLiners and Laker fans. He thanked his father, "my first coach until I was 16 years old, who taught me about hard work and gave me support and advice, even when I didn't ask for it."
Weight said it was a tough decision whether to stay at LSSU or leave school for the NHL in 1991. He called the 1990-1991 Laker team one of the best he's ever played with and said he learned a lot about himself as well as the game of hockey in his short time on campus.
"It's soon to be 18 years for me in that league, and I owe Lake Superior -- the players, coaches, everyone – in helping me with preparing for my future."
In thanking his teammates, Weight said, "Jimmy (Dowd) said it best – success comes with friendship and teammates. I've never been on a successful team that didn't have close-knit teammates."
Weight saved his biggest thanks for his mother and his wife, citing his mother's "strong, silent support, shown in a wink, or a hug, or her famous baked goods. I respect you and want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I love you."
His wife Allison, he said, "truly defines the word 'support,'" noting the times she had to pick up and move the family to follow him to a new team. "You're 100 percent behind me and I'm lucky to have you."
Weight and Dowd and his wife Lisa both have three children. The Weights live in Old Brookville, N.Y., and the Dowds live in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.