You won’t find a more embattled professional athlete than Rick DiPietro. He was the owner of perhaps the worst contract in the history of the NHL before that deal was bought out by the New York Islanders. From No. 1 overall draft pick to franchise goalie to so-so goalie to injury-prone laughingstock to unemployment…just like that.
Except the fall from grace took nearly 12 years and at least that many groin pulls.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall right off the bat. If you wanted to boil DiPietro’s career down to one instance, maybe this is it: after arriving to his first training camp, the young (at that point) goalie tweaked his groin during his first few minutes out on the ice for the Islanders, missing four preseason games with the aliment.
The ups and downs of DiPietro’s career are staggering. From his stints in the AHL early on—one of those longer stints actually requested by the goalie himself—to the arthroscopic knee surgery that the goalie required after finally hacking it in the NHL in 2003, the story always seemed to be the same for DePietro.
If there was ever an underdog worth cheering for, this is the guy. Not because of his one-touted talent, but because of how the game has humbled him at every turn. Hockey has an odd way of doing that. Hockey also has a weird way of giving second chances to the people who continue to work hard while just putting their heads down and skating.
DiPietro is being given that second chance. With the Carolina Hurricanes suddenly thin in net and leaning on Justin Peters as their starter, general manager Jim Rutherford signed the netminder to a PTO with Carolina’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
GM Jim Rutherford confirms Rick DiPietro has signed a PTO with Charlotte Checkers. Will join team tonight.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) October 26, 2013
If he appears in shape and can stop the puck with any sort of frequency, it’s likely that we’ll see DePietro in the NHL by the end of the week. There was three-year window when he was considered one of the best goalies in the game, but injuries and perhaps some mental lapses prevented him from ever maintaining that peak.
He may not be capable of channeling his 2006 form, but if he gets back out onto the ice for even a single NHL game it will be one of the most unlikely and improbable comebacks in recent memory. And who doesn’t love a good comeback?
He’s distanced himself from all the money and hoopla and expectations. Now he’s just another guy trying to play his way into a job for a year or two. Isn’t that what it should be all about for him at this point? There’s no reason to root against DiPietro as he makes his comeback attempt.
It’s just the kind of positive this NHL season needs as it’s been shrouded in head shot after head shot and a slew of injuries to top stars.