A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
An Interview with Kevin Weekes
Born: April 4, 1975
City: Toronto, Ontario
|1999-00||New York Islanders||NHL||36||2026||1||3.41||10||20||4|
|2000-01||Tampa B Lightning||NHL||61||3378||4||3.14||20||33||3|
|2001-02||Tampa B Lightning||NHL||15||648||2||2.96||2||7||0|
Original Selection: Florida Panthers, Round 2, 1993 NHL Entry Draft How Acquired: Traded from the New York Islanders with Kristian Kudroc and a second-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for three draft picks (first, fourth and seventh rounds).
Original Selection: Florida Panthers, Round 2, 1993 NHL Entry Draft
How Acquired: Traded from the New York Islanders with Kristian Kudroc and a second-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for three draft picks (first, fourth and seventh rounds).
Kevin Weekes is a talented, young goaltender. Possessing great reflexes, hockey instinct, and a fast-catching glove, Weekes has proven that he can be a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League. Besides discussing on-ice developments within hockey, Weekes has some insights rarely heard but, certainly, important. Black Athlete Sports Network caught up with him recently to get the 4-1-1.
JS: What’s it like playing behind a hot goaltender like Nikolai Khabibulin?
KW: It is good and bad all at the same time. It’s good because we get along really well. That makes the situation easier. But it is challenging, knowing that regardless of what happens, I am not going to play that much. So that is definitely challenging, having played.
JS: 61 games last year.
KW: Yes. and almost 120 over the last two years.
JS: What do you do then to stay mentally and physically prepared?
KW: Just try and practice as hard as possible, and train off ice, but at the same time nothing can beat actually playing. Obviously, [since] practice is simulated, the pace is not the same. Shooters play a little bit different in practice, as do goalies. There is nothing quite like getting into a game situation. Just trying to do the best I can in training and practice situations but it is certainly not the same, though.
JS: Obviously, as a goaltender, you face many shots. Who are some of the toughest shooters to face around the league?
KW: Steve Yzerman, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Alexei Kovalev, and Mario Lemieux, now that he is back.
JS: Who has the hardest?
KW: Sakic is hard& but Kovalev is hard and accurate.
JS: With goals down in the league, do you think the environment favors shooters or goaltenders?
KW: I think, overall, as far as coaches and the league staff, they definitely favor the shooter. You can see that through the initiatives to increase the scoring around the league. At the same time, goaltending now is better than it has ever been at any point in the history of the league. That being said, I think that is one of the reasons why you see scoring so low right now. Another reason is team defense. So many teams [have] much more conscious, sound defense. Coaches and players spend so much time watching tapes and games of different teams and — with satellite dishes and assorted technology — it is difficult to sneak up on another club. Everyone knows the others strengths and weaknesses.
JS: You’ve had some tough luck over the last few years in that you played for teams that were not likely to make the playoffs. How difficult is it watching playoff games on television, wanting to be out there?
KW: That’s something I was talking about yesterday. It definitely makes all the difference in the world being in the playoffs or at least late in the season fighting for a playoff spot. My last couple of years in the league have been difficult in that the teams I’ve played on have not been in that position. As good as it is to play, it is no fun at the end of the day having to watch playoff games and answering questions from the people back home about why I’m not in the playoffs. It is frustrating.
JS: It is interesting seeing black men, such as yourself, playing an important role in the NHL. In your mind, have things changed over the years so that the league is more accepting of black hockey players?
KW: The league has changed but there is still so much change to be done. We’re definitely happy with the way things are right now, but by no means do I think things are at the ultimate level. One of the good things about sports is that it provides a forum where changes take place in so many areas, especially socially. These changes I mention are positive, although there are still people from the old regime in hockey who have that old mentality about who you are, where you belong, and the type of player you need to be, or where they should slot you. In reality, they don’t really know much about your heritage or culture. It is ironic to see people who don’t know much but still think they know more than you when it comes to social factors and ultimately have an impact on decision-making and how it affects your career.
JS: Are you still a member of the NHL’s Diversity Task Force?
JS: How is that working out?
KW: I am very involved. The initiative is the right one in that its mission is to expose kids from nontraditional hockey backgrounds to the sport and encourage them to play. There have been several programs instituted in North America, most residing in the United States. That part is going well. I also believe that it is not only important to change things on the grassroots level as far as player participation and knowledge, but [including] nontraditional hockey fans, so to speak, who can relate to the game is important, as well. It would be equally important to encourage coaches, aspiring managers, people who work in other capacities in NHL front offices to support these efforts. They are visible people whose participation would give the whole task force an increased credibility. Like I explained, they have done so much on the grassroots level, but if they did the same with potential viewers or corporate entities and so forth, people will relate and take the league more seriously with their efforts. If you do that, you will see people of different religions and cultures eventually in positions of influence.
JS: Is it more important to be known as a black player or just someone who is proficient in your sport without ethnic identification?
KW: That is what is most important. As for blacks in the league, there are more of us now and we have more of a presence league-wide — our abilities, as players — as opposed to who we are, skin color, etc. In the end, as players — that means the most to us. We are young, black players but, above all, hockey players. And that is all that really matters. You are seeing a shift in the overall process as to how longtime hockey people view us, but there is still a long way to go.
JS: Thanks, Kevin, for being with BlackAthlete Sports Network today.