With Rick DiPietro clearing waivers but reportedly given a week to report to AHL Bridgeport, an outspoken former teammate chimed in via Twitter on life with the Islanders under the "special" status DiPietro was afforded, life as an NHLer in general, and the fleeting nature of NHL careers.
Of course, the retired player in question is Brendan Witt, so the frank thoughts are entertaining but not terribly surprising.
It started with a response to Lou Pellegrino (who, according to his Twitter handle, works for NHL Network in New York), after Pellegrino enthused about Kevin Poulin's (K-P) season debut:
@lou_pellegrino must be nice to take a week to report— Brendan Witt (@Whitemooseranch) February 24, 2013
As Witt's career wound down and his effectiveness became obviously limited (and his relationship with then-coach Scott Gordon never, um, blossomed), the Islanders placed him on waivers. He went unclaimed, and he gamely reported to AHL Bridgeport. He did not wait a week.
After some throwaway social media-esque quips about DiPietro's ego (need the ferry to fit it, etc.), Witt answers a question about getting along:
Pellegrino theorizes that "the weight of that contract is what killed" DiPietro (not the, well, the endless weight of recurring injuries?), then brings up the "Boston ties" with the GM, and Islanders owner Charles Wang being "loyal to a fault," to which Witt replied:
@lou_pellegrino agreed! Didn't help that he was soo close with ownership— Brendan Witt (@Whitemooseranch) February 24, 2013
So you have the common themes about DiPietro's ego (notable early in his career) and the bond with Wang that helped earn him the big contract (and more chances to reprove his form, post-injury, in the NHL than another goalie would have received).
None of that is too surprising, really, though it's interesting to see a former teammate air it publicly. (Again, Witt's never shied from that, and his twitter handle is a good follow.)
But to cap things off, Witt goes into the nature of pro hockey, and the grind [multiple tweet responses strung together]:
It's is what it is. At the end of the day you are a piece of meat. The way the machine works...
enjoy the ride! Never know when the dream is over ...
well some guys think it last forever. It's hard to play at that level for soo many years. Body takes a grind.
(Note: The "some guys" was in response to how players in general need to realize it's a short ride, so don't read it as a veiled "SOME guys" reference to DiPietro.)
Witt suffered through all kinds of injuries as a player, and no doubt the player so often called "a warrior" -- whether it be sharks, SUVs, or opposing players -- saw his own decline precipitated by the accumulation of injuries. The Islanders signed him to a contract extension before his previous contract was up -- a gesture he appreciated at the time -- but unfortunately he wasn't able to keep up that level of performance through the end.
(Flashback to a video of Garth Snow discussing the extension at the time:
On that note, one more exchange:
@Lou_Pellegrino: I don't know how you did it. The beating in front of the net you had to endure. Yowza!!!
@Whitemooseranch: I enjoyed it lol … it was always a pleasure to break my stick over someone's back or wrist
Anyway, we're not here to typically make a big deal of athletes or others riffing on Twitter. But Witt was a popular Islander, and this exchange had all the hallmarks of the Brendan Witt Isles fans remember: Frank, honest, physical but ready to dish and take.
Since his end with the Isles and in the NHL was a case of "the machine" treating him like a piece of meat after his body had indeed been ground down, hopefully he's at peace with that reality and what kept him from playing at that level through the end of his contract.