The Rick DiPietro Goalie Camp, open to youth players of all ages, kicked off Monday at Islanders Iceworks. The participants will spend four hours a day with professional coaches learning goalie-specific skating, positioning, puck-handling and technique, while also developing strength and flexibility in off-ice exercises.
DiPietro doesn’t just lend his name to the camp – he runs it, and all proceeds go to the New York Islanders Children's Foundation. He gets to know each player and works with them individually throughout the entirety of each session.
“I love to do this – getting the opportunity to be with the kids and do what I enjoy,” DiPietro said. “I grew up going to these goalie camps, and any time I got to be with a professional athlete, whether it be a goalie or even a forward, it was fantastic. You forget sometimes that this is the reason you play. You come out here and see how much fun they’re having.”
Joe Laurentino brought his 10-year-old son Quinten to the camp and was impressed watching DiPietro’s involvement with the players.
“When we first came here, we knew it was going to be [Rick’s] camp,” the senior Laurentino said. “We didn’t know if he would actually be running it. To actually see him out there with the kids, it was great. He appears to be great with the kids.”
The campers did on-ice drills for two hours, ate lunch together, and continued through the afternoon with off-ice core and flexibility drills. Quinten was all smiles after meeting the Islanders netminder.
“I thought he was a really awesome coach and person,” the younger Laurentino said. “We did a bunch of skating drills in the crease. We did a lot of skating around the dots. Then we would practice pushing off the post and facing a shot.”
One of the things DiPietro is teaching his campers this week is the importance skating has to the position.
“You always hear that goalies are just the guys who couldn’t skate,” DiPietro said. “I want to explain to them how important it is to be a good skater and all the different fundamental things that I’ve learned growing up.”
DiPietro added that being around a bunch of goalies is a lot of fun, since hockey goaltenders tend to be a different breed from most athletes.
“We’re not weird, we’re quirky,” DiPietro said. “It takes a special person to stand there and let people shoot pucks at you. I personally was drawn to the equipment and the masks, and all that stuff. It’s fun getting to ask these kids why they became goalies, who their favorite goalies are and why they like playing the position.”
His new student, Laurentino, echoed DiPietro’s comments.
“It takes a lot of passion to play goalie,” the younger Laurentino said. “If you don’t have passion for it, there’s really no point in playing.”
That passion was evident in the campers’ attitudes and enthusiasm during the on-ice practice, as well as the off-ice drills in the afternoon. And Monday was only the first day of camp.
“I had a chance to skate with [Garth Snow] one time,” DiPietro said. “He wasn’t professional yet – I think he was finishing up at Maine, and he came and skated with us. We had a lot of camps where pros came in – Greg Hawgood comes to mind. He was a defenseman for the Bruins and he was shooting pucks. I was always back there telling him to shoot harder and harder, and he’d take it easy on me. These kids are the same way. They keep telling the coaches to shoot harder. I don’t know, maybe we are a little bit weird.”