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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Throughout the month of October teams across the National Hockey League have been promoting cancer awareness in many different fashions. Players across the League have taped their hockey sticks with black tape decorated in both pink and blue ribbons, they’ve used pink tape, they’ve given on-ice presentations, made donations and auctioned off game used equipment, all in support of cancer awareness.

None of those fashion statements have been as bold as Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro’s, who will make his game debut with pink pads, glove and blocker in Friday night’s matchup at the Nassau Coliseum with the Montreal Canadiens.

“It’s good for the game and for the cause,” Islanders head coach Scott Gordon said about Hockey Fights Cancer month. “There’s a lot of things that you can support, but I think everybody knows at least one person that has been affected by cancer, so the more awareness of it, the better it is.”

Like many hockey players and fans alike, the Islanders goaltender’s life has been profoundly affected by the disease and he hopes that his bold statement will promote awareness in a large way.

“My wife’s aunt passed away from breast cancer and I’ve had two grandfathers pass away from cancer, so it’s something that’s very close to my heart,” said DiPietro. “It’s a devastating disease, not only for the person who has it, but for the family members as well.”

DiPietro was very close with his grandfather William, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer and that’s why the back of his new mask sports his grandfather’s initials, W.R.A.

“I was in Michigan playing for the U.S. team when my grandfather passed away, but that summer he was living with us and I had the chance to bond with him.”

“Watching someone in so much pain, you can’t describe it,” DiPietro continued. “We spent some of the best times we’ve ever spent together. I got to know him a lot better than I ever though I’d get the opportunity to.”

While he’s doing it for all the right reasons, his idea may seem crazy in the hockey world. Gordon even commented, “When I was playing, I had the luxury of getting one set (of pads and gloves) a year, so it certainly wasn’t going to be pink.”

Nonetheless, wearing pink pads is something DiPietro thought about after watching one of America’s favorite past times – Monday night football.

“Speaking with my wife after watching football, we noticed that tons of guys have pink cleats and everything else,” DiPietro said.

So right away, he knew what he wanted to do and decided it was time to make a statement. “I talked to the equipment manufacturer that I work with and just thought it would be a good thing to raise some money for charity.”

DiPietro plans to auction off all of the pink items he sports this month for cancer research and other charities supporting cancer, including his own foundation that he is trying to get off the ground running.

“It takes me a week to break in a pair of pads,” DiPietro said. “So if I can auction them off and raise a couple thousand dollars to help with research or anything else, it’s worth it. Doing that, it’s nothing. It’s easy.”

Going through cancer or watching a loved one suffer is the hard part.
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