Isles' Rick DiPietro is teacher and negotiator
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Rick DiPietro's only consistent summer routine the past four offseasons has been the physical therapy center. Last week, he was in two fairly unfamiliar locations around the area.
The first was at IceWorks in Syosset, hosting a goaltending camp for young hockey players, the first such camp he's done in many years, with the proceeds going to the New York Islanders Children's Foundation.
The second was perhaps even more surprising for the 30-year-old: walking into the collective bargaining talks as part of the NHL Players Association's negotiating committee.
For a player with an oft-mocked contract that has him set for life -- the 15-year, $67.5 million deal DiPietro signed with the Islanders has nine more seasons to go -- sitting at the bargaining table seems an odd sight.
"It's not about me," DiPietro said at the tail end of last week, between on-ice sessions with his campers and the two bargaining sessions he attended in the company of NHLPA chief Don Fehr and several other players. "You have to remember when it comes to any of the CBA stuff -- whether it's competition committee work, whatever it is -- you're not there representing yourself. There's 750 guys who you're fighting for, and we're trying to make the best deal there is for all those guys."
DiPietro said he was greatly influenced by former Islanders enforcer Steve Webb during the goaltender's first pro season. "He showed me how important it is to educate yourself, to be involved and stay involved," DiPietro said. "And being able to sit and watch a guy like Don Fehr work is a privilege."
The goaltender camp was something of a privilege too, given that DiPietro wasn't even allowed on the ice this early in the summer for his array of knee problems since the summer of 2008. He played 63 games in 2007-08, the second season of his 15-year deal. DiPietro has played 47 games the last four seasons combined, and just eight last season because of a concussion and sports hernia surgery.
"Oh, 100 percent right," DiPietro said of his offseason focus being his health the last four summers. "It feels good to get on the ice with the kids and show them some things. It's not rehab, it's fun. That's a big deal."
There is also the strange possibility that DiPietro may be at the bargaining table helping end his Islanders tenure. A new CBA, which was discussed again by reps of the NHL and the players association Tuesday in Toronto (without DiPietro in attendance), is still a ways off, but many people around the league believe a new agreement will include an amnesty buyout period, when teams will be able to shed at least one onerous contract.
DiPietro's is the obvious candidate on the Islanders. He acknowledged that possibility back in April, when he told Newsday he was hoping to be on the negotiating committee.