Professional hockey goalie
Kevin Weekes is a veteran hockey goalie known for his modesty, self-discipline, and interest in social problems. He was born on April 4, 1975, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Carl and Vadney Weekes, who had emigrated from the Caribbean nation of Barbados several years before. As a child, Weekes felt a close attachment to an older cousin, and it was that cousin who unintentionally introduced him to goaltending. As Weekes recalled to the New York Times's Jason Diamos in 2002, "My cousin was like my brother…. If I wanted to hang out with those guys, I had to play goalie. You don't really have much say when you're six years old and the guys around you are 13, 14." The game the boys were playing was street hockey, not ice hockey, and the young Weekes improvised when it came to the elaborate, and expensive, equipment goalies need. According to his official Web site, Weekes "used foam from old sofa cushions as pads … and rigged a yellow margarine container for a glove."
Weekes's love of goaltending, and his determination to move on to ice hockey, quickly became clear to his friends and family. As early as the age of six, Weekes announced his determination to tend goal in the National Hockey League (NHL), home to many of the sport's best players. Fortunately, Toronto was home to many exceptional youth-hockey teams, one of which, the Red Wings of the Metro Toronto Hockey League, provided much of Weekes's early training. In 1992 the Owen Sound Platers of the semiprofessional Ontario Hockey League (OHL) selected Weekes in the third round of the league's annual draft. For the next three years the young goalie divided his time between the Platers and another OHL team, the Ottawa 67s. In the midst of his OHL experience, however, he was drafted again, this time by the NHL's Florida Panthers, as the forty-first pick of that league's 1993 draft. The Panthers left Weekes in the OHL until 1995, when he moved up to the American Hockey League's Carolina Monarchs, a Panthers affiliate. After two seasons as a Monarch, he moved on to another Panthers affiliate, the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League (IHL). He would play in twelve games for the Komets before the Panthers summoned him to his first NHL appearance in October of 1997. Kevin Weekes had achieved his dream.
After eleven games with the Panthers, Weekes was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, who sent him to play for their IHL affiliate, the Detroit Vipers. Weekes was so successful in his thirty-three appearances in goal for the Vipers that he earned the IHL's 1999 James Morris Memorial Trophy, given annually for outstanding goaltending. Thrilled by this success, the Canucks lost little time in summoning Weekes back to the NHL. He would play in a total of thirty-one games over two seasons (1998-99 and 1999-2000) for Vancouver before being traded to the New York Islanders, who in turn traded him after thirty-six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Weekes's tenure in Tampa Bay was a relatively long one: eighty games over two seasons (2000-01 and 2001-02). In February of 2002, however, Weekes moved again, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes, for whom he played some of the best hockey of his career. Over three seasons with the Hurricanes (2001-02, 2002-03, and 2003-04), Weekes was instrumental in several playoff victories, gained significant media exposure, and emerged as a fan favorite. At the end of the 2003-04 season, nevertheless, Carolina released him, and he signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers. After two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07), forty-six games, and a playoff appearance with the Rangers, Weekes moved, again as a free agent, to the Rangers' crosstown rivals, the New Jersey Devils. As of February 20, 2008, Weekes had compiled a record of two wins and two losses as the Devils' backup goalie.
Weekes has not always had an easy time in the NHL. He has suffered several significant injuries, including a strained quadriceps muscle in February of 2007 that ended his season several months early. His performance in goal has sometimes been erratic, as he himself readily admits, and he has spent most of his career as a backup goalie, not as a starter. At times, however, he has played as well as anyone else in the league. In a 2002 playoff game against the New Jersey Devils, Weekes, then tending goal for the Carolina Hurricanes, stopped forty shots and allowed only two in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory. Though the game made him an instant celebrity in the eyes of Carolina's fans, Weekes reacted with a characteristic mix of modesty and humor. One particularly difficult save, made in overtime, he described as "a lucky stab at catching a fish," according to the New York Times's Diamos.
Hockey analysts have often described Weekes as a "journeyman"—a hard-working, unassuming player who performs well for several teams but never becomes a major star. For Weekes, however, it is constant improvement through hard work, self-discipline, and teamwork that counts, not stardom. It is a lesson he has long shared with youngsters, particularly black youngsters with little hockey experience. Having achieved his childhood dream of playing hockey in the NHL, Weekes has moved on to a new goal: increasing the participation of black children in a sport long dominated by whites.
At a Glance …
Born on April 4, 1975, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; son of Carl and Vadney Weekes.
Career: Played for two teams in the semiprofessional Ontario Hockey League (OHL), 1992-95; second-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, National Hockey League (NHL), 1993; played with Panther-affiliated teams in the American Hockey League (AHL) and International Hockey League (IHL), 1995-98; played in his first NHL game, October 16, 1997, with the Florida Panthers; has played for other NHL teams, including the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Rangers; signed with the NHL's New Jersey Devils, 2007; Skillz Hockey, founder.
Awards: James Morris Memorial Trophy (cowinner), International Hockey League, 1999, for outstanding goaltending.
Addresses: Web—http://www.kevinweekes1.com/. Office—c/o New Jersey Devils, Prudential Center, 165 Mulberry St., Newark, NJ 07102.
The reasons behind the continuing racial imbalance in ice hockey are complex. While racism has certainly played a role, the most basic reason, many agree, is probably geography. In the days when well-equipped indoor ice rinks were rare, hockey was limited to areas with severe winters and large expanses of solid ice. In North America this meant the rural areas of Canada, northern New England, and the upper Midwest—areas that are predominately white even today. While indoor ice rinks have removed those geographical limitations, the stereotype of ice hockey as a white sport continues to discourage blacks from entering the game. As late as 2007, only thirteen of the approximately six hundred active players in the NHL were black. The NHL is aware of the disparity and spent $6 million between 1995 and 2007 on programs to encourage diversity. It also enlisted the help of Willie O'Ree, who became the first black NHL player in 1958, and current players like Weekes, who shares with O'Ree a keen interest in social problems and an appealing personality. As the fiftieth anniversary of his NHL debut approached, O'Ree was serving as the league's director of diversity programming, while Weekes continued to work for Skillz Hockey, a "grassroots hockey initiative" he founded to bring the sport, and its benefits, to disadvantaged and minority children. In the summer of 2007 O'Ree and Weekes filmed a scene together for the television comedy series Everybody Hates Chris. O'Ree said of the appearance, as quoted on Weekes's Web site: "This was a great experience for me and we can maybe touch a few more people." As memorable as O'Ree's minutes on the ice were, it is these community efforts that have cemented his reputation. The same will no doubt be said one day of Kevin Weekes.
New England Hockey Journal, January 18, 2008.
New York Times, February 22, 2000; May 3, 2002; February 3, 2006; December 22, 2007.
"Kevin Weekes: Biography," Goaltender Home Page,http://www.hockeygoalies.org/bio/weekes.html (accessed February 19, 2008).
"Kevin Weekes—The Road to the NHL," The Official Website of Kevin Weekes, http://www.kevinweekes1.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=33 (accessed February 19, 2008.
LaRocca, Thomas, "O'Ree a Leading Man in More Ways Than One," National Hockey League: History, http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=350430 (accessed February 20, 2008).
—R. Anthony Kugler
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