Rick DiPietro, first goalie ever taken No. 1 overall, with Dany Heatley (2) and Marian Gaborik (3) on NHL Draft Day 2000. (Jeff McIntosh/AP)
By Allan Muir
The first time I met Rick DiPietro was at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Fla. It was a year after he’d been selected first overall and the Islanders rookie was in town doing press for the league. Smart move. The kid was a natural in front of the camera, handsome, charming, quick-witted. Exactly the image the NHL wanted to present. He was having so much fun with our piece that we gave him the mic and turned him loose to interview a few of the top prospects for us. Comedy gold ensued.
DiPietro that day lived up to his well-established reputation for being cocky, but in an amiable enough sort of way. It was an aggressive strain of confidence that suggested he’d lived a life where things had pretty much always gone his way and he knew they pretty much always would.
It didn’t quite work out that way, of course. There were glorious moments for DiPietro during his 12-year-career–the starting role at the 2006 Olympics, the record 56-save game in 2007–but mostly there was struggle. Struggle to validate his draft position. Struggle to stay healthy. Struggle to live up to the most bloated contract in NHL history: 15 years, $67.5 million, signed in 2006 after a 30-win season.
GALLERY: The painful saga of Rick DiPietro