Monday, March 29, 2010

The DiPietro Delay

It was 11:35 pm Saturday night when Newsday’s Katie Strang announced to the Islander faithful (who had subscriptions or Twitter accounts) that Rick DiPietro had been shut down for the balance of the season. Considering the “season” has about two weeks remaining, it shocked no one and is actually what many who had been close to the team were calling for.

I assume Rick is more than disappointed. He has to be. I can assure you no one worked harder at trying to get back into game shape than Rick DiPietro. Is the organization disappointed? Perhaps. Are the fans disappointed? Hardly. According to all ac counts, they are more disappointed with the handling of the situation than the situation itself. But to that I say -- Understandable.

I’ve read that some fans are saying the handling of the situation and the information released has been dishonest at best and out-and-out lies. Personally, I think that is a harsh and inaccurate statement. If I remember, the statements were always they looked forward to Rick DiPietro playing again before the end of the season. I look forward to fitting into that flowered dress I bought two years ago in a size 10 for Easter. Is that a lie? No. I do look forward to it. I just have no real chance of doing it.

When I bumped into Rick in the locker room hallway two weeks ago, I looked forward to seeing him back on the ice this season too. He was being trailed by a group of youngsters as he was taking them on a tour. He was walking without any indication of discomfort or impediment. He was jovial and smiling. He looke d fantastic but I made the mistake of saying “Hey skinny. Eat a cheeseburger.” Yes, he’s lost weight but he really isn’t skinny. That was just me being my motherly self.

“Skinny?! Skinny?!!” (OMG I poked the bear!!) "I’m RIPPED! I’m doing exactly what they’re telling me to do!” Well, he told me! And seriously, he is. That’s the point. He IS doing exactly what they are telling him to do. Now, he is not looking forward to getting back on the ice for a game because that’s what they told him to do.

Have we been lied to? I don’t see it that way. Is this being overly cautious? No. Why should they risk having to start his rehabilitation over again when they have come so far with it this season? They shouldn’t. Which is why I think the criticism is somewhat harsh even if it is understandable. They should have never kept him out of sight for so long.

Let’s remember that Rick DiPietro was the kid who always treated the fans better than anyone else. I say “kid” because at the time he started with the Islanders, he was just a kid: an engaging, energetic, bright, smiling kid.

I have many favorite Rick DiPietro as good guy stories from long before I ever thought I’d be anything more than one of the many standing on line waiting for an autograph. However, the one that stands out most for me is the STH Meet & Greet that could have gone sadly wrong had it not been for Rick’s good nature.

It was one of those two hour only signing events at the Coliseum where players were staged at different areas of the Coliseum and fans would stand on line waiting for autographs. While there were at least a dozen players there to sign, since it was a two hour event, you were lucky to get four signatures. You had to plan appropriately to get the ones you really wanted. I followed my daughter around the Coliseum that day holding the Islander year book while she had her hat and stick signed. I made the mistake of letting her step up first and I would watch her bolt off to the next section while I was still getting the book signed.

For some reason, we ended up on Rick’s line last. Of course, it was long and proceeded to get longer. The end of the signing period was drawing closer and still the line grew. A security guard walked up to the fans halfway down the row behind me and said. “Sorry the line is closed.” They had already been on that line for at least 20 minutes. An argument began.

As Rick signed for each fan taking time to actually speak to them and taking photos, he watched what was going on. He called over the security guard next to him. He seemed agitated. By the time I was within earshot of him, I overheard “I don’t care what time it is. I’m not leaving until they all get an aut ograph. If you made a mistake, that’s your problem. YOU’LL just have to wait! I‘m NOT leaving.”

And sign he did. One after another. I tried to rush him, but I had also brought a Newsday article about Rick heading to the bench and leaving his stick across the goal line. It had never been done before. “Can I read this? I didn’t see it yet.” I was shocked. I thought for sure he’d want to get the heck out of there as he was now on overtime. Nope. He read it, joked with me, took photos with my daughter, wished me well and went onto the next fan. I stood on the side for a few moments continuing to watch how he reacted to everyone after.

So while some of the other players looked at the fan interaction as a chore and something they were strictly required to do, Rick was enjoying every moment of it. Perhaps it was his youthful enthusiasm or just the fact that he’s really a good person, he made an impression on every fan that was on that line that snowy Sunday afternoon in January.

I’ve heard ““He‘s done. Just admit it!”, "You drink the Kook-aid, Dee.” and “You’ll believe anything they tell you.” for months (usually at my own breakfast table.) If that’s the case, than I’ve been drinking it since 2001. (It’s cherry. It mixes well with vodka.) But I will personally continue to hold out hope that Rick DiPietro can resume his goaltending career with the NY Islanders and be what everyone had hoped he would be: a world class goaltender.

Until then, there are plenty of things Rick can do for the organization that he is very much a part of. He recently did a promo for the new Islanders Entertainment website. He memorized the lines in a matter of minutes and I was told they did it in one take. The only thing I would hope for this off season for Rick is that they don’t try to hide him in the shadows again as they did last season. He needs to be out in public representing the team. No one should worry about how he answers questions posed by fans or media types. The man can face 90 mph pucks being hurled at his head. He can handle a few questions from the media.

I would make sure he’s at the draft party this summer. Let him Emcee it with Jiggs MacDonald. They'd beat the 10,000 fans they had last year. Get Rick in studio with EJ for an interview on NHL Live from the XM studios at the NHL Store as soon as possible. If the Sound Tigers make the playoffs, make sure he’s there for a game. Just don’t make the same mistake again!

Rick can handle himself on or of f the ice. They should just let him.

1 comment:

feralcatsspayneuter said...

Nice story of Rick. That showed a different side of him that I never saw. Must say though, I still have my doubts that he will return. With all these injuries he had, if he manages to ever come back and play at even half of himself. Then I would gladly eat crow. Gladly, bow down to him.