Being sent down to the minors had Rick DiPietro feeling "like someone ripped out my heart," the goaltender said Thursday.
DiPietro, in an interview with News 12, opened up about his struggles with injuries and being ridiculed by fans the past few seasons. He said he has thought about driving his car "into a tree, off the Throgs Neck Bridge."
When reached by phone Thursday, DiPietro backtracked on his comments about having suicidal thoughts, saying he was trying to make a joke.
"I've used that exact quote a few times before," DiPietro, 31, told Newsday. "Obviously, [suicide] is not something you should joke about. I wanted to show how important my wife [Cassandra] has been and that I don't know how I would have gotten through these last few years without her."
DiPietro did not back off his comments about his reaction to being told by general manager Garth Snow that he would be placed on waivers and, if not claimed by another team, sent down to Bridgeport.
"It felt like someone ripped out my heart, and stuck a knife in it and then lit it on fire and then flushed it down the toilet," DiPietro told News 12, whose parent company is Cablevision, which also owns Newsday. "It was tough. It wasn't something that I obviously saw coming. It definitely teaches you that professional sports is a business. It's about what you're doing now, your performance. It's about winning. I hadn't done that the last couple starts and this is what happens."
He later told Newsday, "When you get news like that, you take it hard. I said it when I signed the contract: I want to be an Islander for life and help this team get back and win another Stanley Cup. That's all I ever wanted."
The 15-year, $67.5-million contract he signed in 2006 is what has defined DiPietro, who at the time was an All-Star goaltender. Since then, there have been a half-dozen surgeries, only 50 appearances in five seasons and now his first non-conditioning assignment to the minors in a decade.
"We are aware of Rick's comments today and the severity of them," Snow said in a statement. "We will handle them internally as we do with all player matters. This is an opportunity for Rick to play lots of games."
DiPietro will start for Bridgeport Friday night in Hartford against the Rangers' farm team. He played three games with the Islanders this season as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov, and the Isles lost all three.
After DiPietro gets some games in with the Sound Tigers, Snow and owner Charles Wang must decide whether to buy out the remaining eight years of his contract, thus owing him $1.5 million a year through 2028-29, according to the language of the collective-bargaining agreement, or give him another chance to be a contributor next season.
Thursday's mini-drama only adds to the strange atmosphere that has surrounded DiPietro the last few seasons.
"I'm just going to go work, focus on playing hockey and stopping pucks," he said. "Win some games. I haven't won games in a little while here. It's something I want to get back to doing."