TORONTO - Rick DiPietro is so excited to be back on the ice that he's not the least bit concerned about how he looks.
The New York Islanders goalie stood out during Monday's morning skate at Air Canada Centre because he was wearing bright pink equipment—with new pads, blocker and catching glove.
DiPietro says he'll sport the pink gear in a game "as soon (as it's) broken in" as part of the NHL's "Hockey Fights Cancer" awareness month.
DiPietro's wife had an aunt who passed away from breast cancer and he's long been a supporter of the charity.
"I wear the ribbon on my mask," said DiPietro. "It gives us an opportunity to donate some money to charity—hopefully we'll auction those things off—and I have some pink sticks coming as well. I think Bauer's going to make up a bunch of extra sets (of pads), and see if we can't help out."
A number of athletes have taken to wearing pink equipment in support of breast cancer, including NFL players with shoes and gloves and NHLers with sticks. DiPietro is poised to take it to another level.
The 29-year-old is thrilled to be able to help out because it means he's actually playing games. DiPietro has been hampered by chronic knee problems in recent years and only made 13 appearances for the Islanders over the last two seasons.
"I can't sit here and tell you it's been easy," he said. "A lot of dark days, a lot of times where you don't think you're going to make it. ...
"You've just go to keep battling. I always just kept telling myself that the light at the end of the tunnel was coming and all the hard work was going to eventually pay off."
His counterpart, Dwayne Roloson, was given Monday's start against the Toronto Maple Leafs—his second straight. In the past, DiPietro might have been frustrated with a stretch of games on the bench, but has outlook has changed.
"Listen man, one per cent of the entire world gets to be a professional athlete and I'm one of them," said DiPietro. "I feel truly blessed (and) lucky. As far as taking positives out of what's happened, I can't tell you how much of the little stuff you take for granted when you're here. When you're away from the game, you get a chance to see how truly lucky you are.
"Times I used to get mad when I got hit in the face with the puck, I'm just happy (now) that the puck is hitting me and I get a chance to stop the puck. You know what I mean?"