DiPietro's first taste of success is sweet
By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell, 7/30/2000
Sometimes, when Rick DiPietro is driving alone in his car or sitting
quietly by himself, he thinks about what has happened to him in the
last year, even the last few months, and he still can't believe it.
There was the victory in the Beanpot, his outstanding performance in
the World Junior Championships, his selection last month as the No. 1
overall pick in the National Hockey League entry draft. Last week,
that pick translated into a lucrative contract with the New York
Now that his contract is settled and the media whirlwind has died
down, DiPietro said his focus will go back to on-ice pursuits as he
prepares for life as a pro athlete.
''There has been a lot of running around and stuff, away from the
rink,'' said DiPietro. ''Now I get to put my focus toward getting
mentally and physically prepared to be successful for camp.''
DiPietro, who will live with a family on Long Island in the fall,
said all the fanfare has been a great deal to absorb.
''I don't think it's hit me yet,'' he said. ''I've been doing so much
running around, I haven't had time to sit back and really think about
what's actually going on here. When I step in the locker room for
training camp and I see some of the guys I've grown up watching -
like John Vanbiesbrouck - it's going to finally set in and I'll
finally realize what's going on.''
He is spending the rest of the summer working out with fitness guru
Mike Boyle and will attend the World Junior camp in Lake Placid,
N.Y., in August. The following month, when he turns 19, he'll set his
sights on winning the Islanders' starting goaltender job.
''I'll embrace the challenge whatever it may be, whether it be at the
minor league level or the NHL level,'' said DiPietro, who played one
year at Boston University before deciding to enter the draft. ''There
was a lot of talk that a young goaltender would have to spend some
time in the minors before he'd be able to prove himself in the NHL
and that's something I realized. I never really expected to get an
opportunity where I could step right in. I was going to accept
playing in the minors and work up from there. I was ready and looking
forward to starting my pro career and hopefully, developmentally,
playing with pros every day will make me that much better. I was
using college as a steppingstone to the next level. I thought I made
a lot of great strides playing with a lot of talented players
There will be pressure to perform and to live up to the billing that
accompanies all No. 1 picks. The fact he is a goalie will put him in
the spotlight even more.
''I think there's going to be a lot of added pressure, especially
being a goaltender and going first overall, which had never happened
before,'' he said. ''I'm going to try to do the things that will get
me prepared for the pressure.''
DiPietro is supremely confident and believes he belongs in the NHL,
whether it be this fall or somewhere down the line. Scouts have been
very impressed with his puck-handling abilities, which have been
compared to those of New Jersey netminder and two-time Stanley Cup
winner Martin Brodeur. DiPietro said he sees himself as more of a
Grant Fuhr-style goalie.
''I realize I'm going to have to tone it down and pick my spots,''
said DiPietro. ''Martin Brodeur is pretty successful with it. At the
college level, I was fortunate to make mistakes and not pay for them.
I realize at the NHL level, if I make a mistake, it will end up in
the back of my net and hurt my team.''
He has enjoyed the attention and the excitement but is also looking
forward to his preparation for the big time. In terms of spending any
of his riches, DiPietro said the first order of business is a car for
his brother, who has been lobbying hard for one.
''My family is first on the list to get a couple of presents to show
them how much I appreciate what they've done for me over the years,''
''Now [that the contract is settled], the reality is going to start
setting in pretty quick. All the glitz and glamour is winding down
and the real job is going to be at hand.''
DiPietro said it's going to take some time for him to get used to the
fact that now he's a pro athlete.
''I don't think anything has sunk in yet,'' he said. ''It's going to
be funny, now that I have my own checking account with my own money.
It's going to be pretty weird at first.''
One final thought on DiPietro. It's refreshing to see an 18-year-old
so well-spoken, thoughtful, and cooperative and who handles the
attention so graciously. Though DiPietro credits those who have come
before as examples he's followed, there are people in the league a
whole lot older who could learn something from his example.