Big man between the pipes

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Steve Dietrich dates himself when talking about the last time he and Bob Hamley were part of the same National Lacrosse League team.

The Rush goaltender played with the Rush head coach and general manager back in the day.

"Bob doesn't like to toot his own horn," Dietrich said. "But he's one of the best players I've ever played with. He was a great player, which is why he's in the NLL Hall of Fame.

"I've never had a chance to play for him, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Edmonton."

A 17-year veteran himself, Dietrich, 38, has been brought in to backstop the new look Rush this season.

'Chugger' as he's affectionately known, is a two-time NLL goaltender of the year, a championship game MVP and is two years removed from a league MVP season.

"I've known him for a long time and we're actually good friends," said Hamley. "When he became available it was only natural for me to get him. I think he's at the stage of his career where he just wants to win.

"He is a guy that a lot of people have given up on, and he'll be the first to tell you that and I think he's got a lot to prove. He's had a couple of injuries in the last couple of years, but he's the healthiest I've ever seen and the thinnest I've ever seen him and I think he has a lot to prove and I love having guys like that on my team."

A native of Kitchener, Ont., Dietrich began his career with the now-defunct Baltimore Thunder in 1992.

He played a season with the Detroit Turbos before establishing himself with the Rochester Knighthawks. Following a seven-year stint in Rochester, he went on to play with the Buffalo Bandits before landing in Calgary last season.

After a rough season with the Roughnecks, Dietrich signed as a free agent with the Rush this year.

"Last year was disastrous, for lack of a better word, only because I got a concussion in the first game, then I played the next two without it being diagnosed properly - at the fault of no one," Dietrich said. "I got put on injury reserve for the next seven or eight games. Then I came back and I wasn't at 100% and struggled the rest of the way.

"It wasn't a great year and it was disappointing because I know some people stuck out their neck for me over there and I wish I could have done better."

Hamley is confident Dietrich will be able to bounce back.

With essentially an entirely new roster from the one that took the floor for last season's home opener, the Rush are going to need their veteran goaltender to come up big throughout the year.

"I just want to be part of the team, be part of the three goaltenders we have and be consistent when my number is called," Dietrich said. "That's what I've tried to do my whole career, is be as consistent as possible and be a guy that gives my team a chance to win every night."

Playing for Hamley provides extra motivation for a goaltender who has already accomplished all there is to accomplish in the league.

Trying to drag a former expansion team into the playoff for the first time also presents a new challenge.

"Knowing that someone I call a friend is basically sticking his neck out for me, you want to return the favour in spades," Dietrich said. "It's not only in a professional relationship that you want to help the guy out, but it's also in a personal relationship that you don't want to let him down."


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