Sunday, January 27, 2008

DiPietro Enters NHL's Star-Making Machine

Congratulations to Rick DiPietro for being named the starting goaltender for the Eastern Conference in tonight's All-Star Game. As an Islanders fan, it's a thrill to see a member of the team playing such a prominent role in one of the league's marquee events. The fact that the starting job became available as a result of Marty Brodeur's absence really doesn't taint the honor in any way for me.

DiPietro has represented the Islanders very well so far this weekend. You can follow his experiences in Atlanta by paying a visit to Islanders TV at, and by visiting Chris Botta's NYI Point Blank blog. Chris is doing his best to track Rick's every move. Mike Schuerlein of has also been very active in keeping up with the weekend's events.

It is obvious that DiPietro has been in high demand by the media covering the All-Star Festivities. It is also obvious that the higher-ups in the NHL are finally recognizing the star power that DiPietro can provide. He has finally arrived as a marketing tool for the entire league, not just the Islanders.

You can probably attribute some measure of DiPietro's visibility over the last two days to the gap in star power created by Sidney Crosby's injury. The NHL made a good choice in trying to fill that void with the Islanders' young goaltending star. The great thing is that DiPietro had already earned the respect of the most important members of the league, its players and coaches, for being a talented and hard-working player before being thrust into this role. There is no chance of him being dismissed as a pretty face, quick with a quip. He earned the attention he is receiving.

As many of you know, last night's Versus broadcast of the NHL Skills Competition made frequent use of a wired DiPietro. He offered insight and entertainment. Even my wife, who only knows him through his business-like, sometimes-bordering-on-surly answers (thanks to Jim at Greetings from Islander Country) in post-game interviews marveled at how engaging he was. Yes, an open mic did expose the audience to some colorful language from DiPietro.

Like most Islanders fans, I imagine, I was far less concerned with the expletive as I was with the rest of what the franchise goalie said, which was something to the effect of, "I just f----d up my hip again." Anyone else's heart skip a few beats there? Fortunately, DiPietro did not leave the ice and could be seen smiling later on. I haven't seen a flat-out denial that he tweaked something, in fact he basically acknowledged it in one interview, but both DiPietro and Botta seem comfortable enough with his condition that I'm still looking forward to watching him represent the Isles in the starting lineup. I think DiPietro takes winning seriously enough that he wouldn't endanger his season for the sake of an All-Star game appearance.

This week's edition of Islanders Insider in Newsday featured Richard Park as the team's unsung hero. The piece reminded me of an exchange I had last week with another blogger at the Coliseum, which didn't make it into my post from that game. Jon Jordan was up from Florida making his first appearance in the Blog Box. We ended up seated next to each other and traded comments and observations throughout the game. Early in the first period, Jon asked me if it was difficult to keep our cheering in check in the Blog Box. I told him that I tend not to be that demonstrative at games anyway, but that a big goal will certainly give rise to some high-five in the Blog Box. He asked me what defines a big goal. After thinking for a moment, I replied, "Pretty much anything Richard Park scores."

Moments later, Park scored on a breakaway. The goal came 22 seconds after the Flyers had scored, and tied the game at one. Jon and I shared a quiet high-five. Thanks to the unsung Parkie for providing one of my favorite moments of the season so far.

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