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WATCH: NHL Analyst Kevin Weekes on his childhood dreams and playing in New York

Kevin Weekes caught up with Rich Salgado, host of the “Big Daddy & Friends” show, to talk about everything from his days growing up in Toronto, Canada and dreaming of the NHL to playing in the Tri-State area to the value of immigrants.

Weekes has been on both sides of the camera, playing goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils, among others. After retirement, he became an analyst, working for the NHL Network, On The Fly and NHL Tonight. He also contributes to NHL.com. He shared his experiences on and off the ice too, as Salgado said, let people know who the real Kevin Weekes is.

Kevin Weekes on being the only goalie to play for all of the metro New York teams

“I loved playing in metro New York,” the former goalie said. “There’s nothing like it. And to play for all three metro New York area teams, it was cool, because every experience was different.” Weekes credits Salgado with being his first friend in New York, as they met when Weekes went to Long Island to play for the New York Islanders. He also had stints as a goaltender for the New York Rangers and, to end his career, the New Jersey Devils, where Salgado cheered his friend Kevin Weekes on at every game.

What motivated Kevin Weekes to become a hockey player?

“I think growing up in Canada, specifically in Toronto…what was cool, the two parts of the city that we grew up in, the first one was the original Little Italy back home. And 60% of that neighborhood, a lot of them were naturally Italians. And their parents were immigrants too, like me,” he said. But, there were many other races and ethnicities around, too. He said it was a really cool melting pot, but hockey was what brought them all together. “Especially growing up in Canada, if you wanted to be in, if you wanted to feel like you assimilated and fit in, that was the main sport.”

Weekes would play street hockey with his older cousin and his friends, who were a lot older than him, and the main goalie who played with them–a Greek immigrant who always had one of the nets they used–moved back to Greece. Weekes was six years old and his cousin made it known that, if he wanted to hang out with them, Weekes would have to play goalie. He would play street hockey with them and, later, ice hockey in winter boots before he owned skates.

He eventually followed his cousin to register in house league hockey in Toronto in the first grade, and Kevin Weekes wanted to be an NHL goalie ever since. Nothing–not being a black goalie, not having Caribbean parents, nothing he said could be used against him–would stop him.

On racial inequality and the importance of immigrants

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 10: Kevin Weekes #80 of the New York Rangers makes save against the Washington Capitals during a game October 10, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Kevin Weekes and his family come from Barbados, a place he calls 166 square miles of paradise. Education is critical there, he says, and the country has an almost 100% literacy rate. In Barbados, he came from a place of acceptance, and he saw similar acceptance among his multicultural friends in Canada. Everyone wants to come to North America for a better life, he says, and Canada and the United States were built on the backs of people who emigrated there.

“If you look at all the amazing things that Latinos have done, you look at all the amazing things that African Americans have done, Italian Americans, Italian Canadians, Russian Americans…I can go down the whole color wheel, the whole line,” he says. They contribute so much to societies, serve in the military, and make countries great. People of different genders and races are some of the best in the history of the world in what they do, he says, and it is important to respect the differences and nuances of people. “At the end of the day, the first name of this country, it’s United.”