Rob Dimaio started his hockey career as a junior superstar in Medicine Hat.
He finished his career as a scoring sensation in Italy.
In between he played nearly 900 games in the National Hockey League as an admirably scrappy but undersized defensive forward.
"It's funny, you get put into a certain role at a younger age and you never expect for it to change," he reflected.
But change it did.
In Medicine Hat he was a two-time Memorial Cup champion. In 1988 he was named as the tournament MVP after scoring 31 points in 14 games!
In the NHL the undersized forward played a much larger game, undaunted by an opponent or situation. A good skater with good hands, he was cast as a hardworking and fearless checker. He was a coach's dream - invaluable at either end of the rink.
“I think you find a little niche. In this game nowadays, you have to do something either very exceptional or you have to do a lot of things very well and I think I try to round myself out as a player and be as effective as I can,” said DiMaio. “My role is more of a checker and you have to play both ends of the rink. I am able to do that at a good level and that is why I have stuck around.”
The physical toll on his small body was a tough price to pay. He battled many significant injuries, including a scary concussion, a broken leg and bad knees.
And let's not forget to mention his poor nose. He - or more accurately someone else - broke his nose more than a dozen times. One time doctors had to repair it by grafting a piece of his skull into his nose.
Yet Dimaio kept coming back more undeterred than before. He always remained on the bubble, but players with Dimaio's heart and hustle can always find a job in the NHL as a utility forward.
In 894 games Dimaio scored 106 goals, 171 assists and 277 points in his NHL career. He played with the Islanders, Flyers, Lightning, Bruins, Rangers, Hurricanes and Stars
Dimaio wound down his career in Italy, where he returned to an offensive player.
"I was able to put up some decent numbers in Milan. It was a lot of fun to be able to get back to playing that type of game," he said.
"I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the hockey," he added. "It was a lot of fun and it was very competitive. My heritage is Italian, so that was a big plus too."
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