UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Before he could even get out the word "retirement" during the opening line of his speech, the emotions started hitting Doug Weight.
As a tribute video highlighting his 19-year NHL career played just moments before, there were times during it that he had to look away or take a drink of water to attempt to hold himself together before he began speaking.
Reading through the pages of his retirement speech, Weight -- who will now join the New York Islanders hockey operations department as an assistant coach and senior advisor to GM Garth Snow -- had to stop to compose himself several times to try and fight back the tears. Same for when he reached the name of Bill Guerin -- his best friend and teammate with numerous USA Hockey teams, the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues and the Islanders -- while thanking those who'd been a part of his career.
Weight and Guerin, who officially announced his retirement in December, represent the end of the greatest generation of American-born hockey players. Only Brian Rolston and, for the moment, Mike Modano remain in the NHL from the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship team roster.
"That era of players is amazing," said Weight. "You could name these players throughout our lineup that just had unbelievable careers. Billy G with Keith Tkachuk and Johnny LeClair kind of brought that toughness that Canada always had."
Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, Pat LaFontaine, John LeClaire and Brett Hull have all passed the torch to the newest crop of American hockey stars in Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Miller Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Suter.
USA Hockey was a big part of Weight's career, having represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships, the World Cup twice, and three times each at the World Championships and Winter Olympics. But it was the run to the World Cup championship in 1996, Weight recalled, that began changing the thought process among the players in how they approached big international games against teams like Russia and Canada.
"That 1996 [World Cup title] was secondary step certainly to 1980, but we fed off that," said Weight. "I remember sitting in my hotel room and Brett [Hull] saying 'for the first time in my life I feel like we're gonna beat them, we're not gonna compete' and we ended up winning two straight in Montreal to open up that Molson Centre, I mean, can you imagine that? That was an amazing feat."
Both credited the "Miracle on Ice" team as inspiration for Team USA's success beginning in the mid-1990s and Guerin hopes that their generation has played a big part in influencing today's American players.
"I hope they were there watching in '96. I hope they were watching in 2002," said Guerin. "I hope, just like the guys in 1980 were an inspiration to us, I hope we were for them."