New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro was only 2 years old when he laced up his first pair of skates. "When I was 5, I threw the goalie pads on, and I've been stuck doing it ever since," he says. "As soon as I saw the cool mask, I fell in love." Today the 26-year-old is just as passionate about helping the Islanders, who picked him No. 1 overall in the 2000 NHL draft, win their first Stanley Cup since 1983. Last year he signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract with the team, so if it takes a minute to cop the Cup, he'll most likely be around. "When I got drafted, I said it was my goal to win the Stanley Cup with the Islanders. By signing, I think I proved my commitment to that goal."
How heavy is all that goalie stuff?
They say the goalie wears 40 pounds extra. It definitely takes a toll on your body, especially during the third period. You end up soaking wet, and it gets heavier as the game progresses, but it becomes second nature having that on.
What's your diet like?
Pretty strict. I'll do egg whites and some turkey bacon for breakfast; a protein shake after a workout; a piece of grilled salmon with some broccoli rabe and spinach salad on the side for lunch. For a snack, I'll have a handful of almonds or an apple with peanut butter on it. And for dinner, I've been eating a lot of buffalo burgers lately.
Every goalie's mask has a story. What's the one behind yours?
We play at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. My dad is a Vietnam vet, so wearing a stars-and-stripes mask seemed like the right fit. It's a tribute to all the veterans and all the men and women who are serving the country now.
For the weekend goalies among our readers, what's the best way to block a puck?
Well, I prefer not to block with my head or neck. [Laughs] To give yourself the optimum chance to make a save, you want to be on the top of your crease, cutting out as much of the shooter's angle as possible. React with the puck; don't let yourself make the first move. Drop down and hope you can absorb the puck so that there's no chance for a shooter to rebound.
Ever trade punches during a game?
I got into a fight my first pro game. I met the other goalie at center ice, gloves and helmets came off, and we started going at it. I'd like to say I won the fight.
In a shoot-out, who's the last person you want up against you?
The last person I'd ever want to see again is Pavel Bure. Every time he got a shot at me, he scored. He would always shoot on the move; he was so unbelievably fast. Fortunately for me, he's retired.
Training Days: Rick DiPietro
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
"During summers, I train with Institute 3E in New York. The main focus is strengthening my core and maintaining balance. I usually start off in the mornings at the track for an hour and a half to do some speed and agility work and lots of plyos. Then I go into the weight room and do some powerlifting for an hour and a half: front squats, back squats, woodchops. I really enjoy doing deadlifts. I'm in the squat position the entire game, so my lower back and hamstrings are two very important pieces to the puzzle for playing goalie. I also do stuff with medicine balls. Squatting and throwing the ball, chasing it down the football field, then squatting and throwing it again—that gets pretty tough. Everything we do is explosive and quick."
Tuesdays and Thursdays
"I do yoga in the mornings, which allows me to maintain my flexibility. The whole point of yoga is to control your breathing while in stressful positions, and obviously you're in a stressful situation the entire hockey game. After yoga, I go see a doctor who figures out everything I need to work on to strengthen my vision. We do exercises that test your reaction to light and how well you remember flashing numbers. Finally, we have a leadership coach that we talk to who helps us deal with the mental aspect of the game. Pro sports is a grind. Physically, you can get through it, but you underestimate how mentally challenging it is."
"Before games, I like to hit the ice and get peppered with shots just to make sure that I'm picking the pucks off the stick well. My teammate Trent Hunter stacks a bunch of pucks in the middle of the ice and fires away, and I'll be down on my knees blocking with my gloves, shot after shot."