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June 24, 2000

Rick DiPietro

Mike Milbury

Raffi Torres


Q. Hi, Rick. With the deals that the Islanders made getting rid of both their goalies and selecting you, does that make you feel that much better being No. 1 overall pick?

RICK DIPIETRO: It's obviously a great honor to be mentioned in the same breath with Roberto Luongo and Kevin Weekes. I feel relieved that the day is over and I made a little history along the way.

Q. Congratulations on being picked. Were you expecting --

RICK DIPIETRO: No, not at all, to tell you the truth. I think all the teams were being kind of secretive about the whole thing. I really didn't know what was going to happen today. I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name called and just ecstatic right now about what's going on.

Q. What's it like to make NHL history?

RICK DIPIETRO: I didn't know it was me. I'm just happy that it was me, to tell you the truth. I guess it's over after today, and the work really begins. So I'm really looking forward to just starting off with the Islanders and getting going.

Q. Do you think you could play right away?

RICK DIPIETRO: I don't know. I have never been to an NHL training camp, so I don't know the level of play I'll be dealing with. But I feel pretty confident that with some work, and I need to work on some things, that I'll be successful at the next level.

Q. It seems like that there's an opening there. ...(Inaudible)?

RICK DIPIETRO: No, not really. I'm not sure if they knew they were picking me until this morning anyway themselves. There has been much talk about it. I'm just looking forward to being a part of the Islanders. I'm just really excited about everything they have going for them right now.

Q. Looks like the Islanders will be building a future with you. A few thoughts about being at the heart of the new beginning.

RAFFI TORRES: It's a great honor to be noticed with Rick here, obviously they're starting something new. So it's really exciting. I'm anxious to get back home and start working out and get in tip-top shape and ready for it.

RICK DIPIETRO: Well, I don't know, speaking with Milbury, as well as the owners, you can only be excited about what they have planned for the future and to be a part of that is going to be wonderful. Like Raffi said, I'm just ready to get home and hopefully have a good camp.

Q. Rick, did you get the impression from your talks with the Islanders that was there a little bit of a different tone in terms of your talks with other teams?

RICK DIPIETRO: Not really. I knew my meeting with the Islanders had gone well. I met with them a couple of times, which I felt was a positive sign for me. And the meetings went well, and I'm really surprised, to tell you the truth, that this finally happened.

Q. I guess we had no idea of what you went through in the past 24 hours. Can you give us insight into that? How much sleep did you get last night?

RICK DIPIETRO: Not much at all. I think I finally tucked in around 3:00 in the morning. It was tough laying around, getting a little nervous about what was going to happen today. I'll probably sleep a lot better tonight.

Q. Can you just talk about -- you said you had to go down to almost the last days and hours to declare for the Draft. In the short period of time, not knowing whether you're going to be college or pro or being the Islanders' No. 1 goalie. What is this like?

RICK DIPIETRO: It's obviously very mind-boggling. This was never something I thought would happen or even expect to happen. And to have an opportunity to step in and be a big part of the Islanders is something that I'm really looking forward to, and I'm really going to put a lot of effort into doing.

Q. Rick, knowing that...(Inaudible) how much more pressure do you feel with that?

RICK DIPIETRO: Obviously, there's going to be a lot of pressure put on me. Roberto Luongo was an excellent goaltender. So I realize there's going to be a lot of pressure on me to step in right away. I enjoy the pressure. I hope I'm ready for the next challenge, and I'm going to do my best to make it possible.

Q. You have fallen on hard times. How much have you kept your eye on the Islanders, and what's your perception of Long Island?

RICK DIPIETRO: I'm real close to Long Island. I kept up with the team. I have a friend Tim Connolly on the team. I realize they have a very young team. With the new owners, they have hope for the future. I'm real happy with being a part of the Islanders and getting started.

Q. That was quite a decision you made at opting in at 18 and losing college eligibility. Can you describe how you feel about that that situation?

RICK DIPIETRO: My decision is really -- has been more and more gratifying each time I come out and talk to you guys or meet with the team. I think it was a good move for me as a player and as a person. It was tough to leave behind such good friends in such good programs, but I think this decision worked out for the best.

Q. Raffi, for yourself personally, what does this mean to be selected as high as you were, come to a team where you might be able to play in the very near future? What does it mean for your family? There were some stories we read over the past couple of weeks.

RAFFI TORRES: I'm just starting to get the blood

flowing back in my legs. With my family and that, they're excited. It's a team that's just getting started, and we're here to get going. I'm pumped.

Q. Raffi, last year Scott Gomez made history as a Hispanic hockey star. Do you see him as a path to follow?

RAFFI TORRES: I think so. Scott Gomez is a high player in the NHL in his first year. Obviously, I'd love to follow in his footsteps. It's a good story where he comes from. A lot of people would like to know about it. ...(Inaudible).

Q. Do you have an idea the Islanders were going to do something to try to get you?

RAFFI TORRES: I didn't know they'd be making a trade-up. But like I said, it's an honor just to see that, you know, they traded. I can't even talk. I'm just really excited. This is crazy.

Q. How do you feel now that you've been drafted?

RAFFI TORRES: Really, all the hype, it's just great. It's an honor to be here, talking to you guys. I love it. I love what I'm doing right now. It feels -- I'm really relieved that I was picked, so...

Q. Mike? Right down here.

MIKE MILBURY: How can I miss you? (Laughter.)

Q. You traded Luongo and --

MIKE MILBURY: Rolling the dice here a little bit. Roberto Luongo is going to be an excellent goaltender. He is a class act and a kid that we would have been happy to ride with. But as the Draft progressed, it was clear that the value of Luongo was greater than the value of the first overall pick; but in our minds, if we could get to DiPietro, he possesses an element that Roberto perhaps doesn't possess. We could make an argument for either one of these goaltenders. We think his unusually strong puck handling skills weighed out in his favor. And trading Roberto and Olli, who by our sights didn't want to be on Long Island, felt he was not wanted on Long Island, rightly or wrongly, we exchanged for those guys to fill a significant need, two significant leads, a center to compliment Tim Connolly and scoring off the wing. It advances the cause of the Islanders, these guys have played in the league for a couple of years. We removed some of the speculation, although there's much to be speculated about as to contact Mark Parrish's long-term upside, but we thought it would make sense for us and would fill a couple of holes we came here to fill.

Q. Do you see an 18-year-old as your starting and first-string goalie?

MIKE MILBURY: Look at Tom Barrasso's statistics. We have every intention of giving Rick a chance to play for the New York Islanders in the fall. We have a proven back-up in Wade Flaherty and another goaltender that we think is of great promise in Valiquette. We may explore options if they're reasonable to add to our goaltending situation. It's possible; no guarantees.

Q. The day is not over yet. But for you, this far into it, there had to be a lot of nerves. How close were you into not making some of these moves?

MIKE MILBURY: Since the ball dropped in our favor, it has been pretty much around-the-clock for us. We've gathered the information. We beat each other up as a staff. We've tried to settle on it, and philosophically what came of it was "Let's fill as many needs as we can, let's get this process a little closer to where we want it to be." Because we have not made the playoffs in far too long, and we need to get there. It's a danger spot, obviously, was going with the youthful goaltender. If we need to give him support, we will. But as dangerous as this might be, you know, we think that Raff might maybe have something going for him.

Q. Was there any possibility you'd sign Ron Tugnutt?

MIKE MILBURY: He's not available to me right now, is he?

Q. Mike, your thoughts on trading Weekes?

MIKE MILBURY: We just felt -- we felt that the pick -- it would have been safe to keep Kevin, and work in concert with Rick. That would have been the safer way to go. But we felt his value had grown significantly to the point where we couldn't pass on the opportunity to get a fifth overall pick and a talented goal scorer at that level.

Q. Can you talk about specifically Parrish and Kvasha?

MIKE MILBURY: We think that Kvasha is a great compliment to Tim Connolly; he's good size, good skating, good offensive skills. He's a little bit unproven, but we've followed him probably more than any other player in the league. And we think that he's going to be a fine center for us. Parrish brings goals. He's done it in his first two years, he's done it wherever he's been. And, again that's a tough commodity to find. They've proven that they can play.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about when you reached the conclusion that you...(Inaudible)?

MIKE MILBURY: We saw a lot of games that he played and were impressed with him in very many. If there were any questions, they probably were answered in our interview process with him. He's extremely confident, and I don't find anything wrong with that. I think he wants to be a go-to guy, and he convinced me that not only was he a confident kid, but I think he's a genuine kid and a likable kid.

Q. Do you feel you made enough moves to make the playoffs?

MIKE MILBURY: We still have one significant need, I think, and that's to acquire somebody that can help anchor our young defense core, and we'll continue to pursue that.

Q. Two questions. One, are you done today? Two, what is -- what are your -- the back of your mind, as much as you might not care, the reaction back on Long Island about this has to be a concern?

MIKE MILBURY: No, I don't think it was warm and fuzzy, but I don't think you make trades based on what the reaction is back at the Draft table. I understand as fans, they get attached to players and are looking forward to players that will be back in the fall, but we believe that for the immediate future of this franchise and for the long-term future of this franchise that we've made the right decisions. I'm not sure if we're done. We still have some action, but I don't know if we're done.

Q. Mike, with regards to DiPietro, besides his off-ice confidence, what are some of the key elements on his on-ice performance that made you pick him?

MIKE MILBURY: He handles the puck as well as any goaltender in hockey today, not just any young prospect goaltender, any one in any league anywhere. That's an exceptional talent. But he's also a kid that can stop the puck. I think he's an aggressive goaltender. He shows some signs of leadership. He's a guy that really wants to be in a position to help the outcome of the game.

Q. You talked about veteran defense. Are you planning to make a run with Don --

MIKE MILBURY: I can't talk about the guys until July 1st, but we'd like to get at least one, if not two veteran-type players, and the more pressing launch is for a powerplay guy. So we'll be in that market as well.

Q. DiPietro, you say he can play next year. What about Torres?

MIKE MILBURY: Well, I think he's not far away. I think, you know, the issue of skating is there with Raffi, he's got feet, his skating's not bad. And I think a lot of whether he can play determines on how hard he's willing to work this off-season.

Q. Mike, you talked about a youthful defense core. Is this a direction set by the ownership group --

MIKE MILBURY: Well, I think it's a direction that we presented to the ownership group, but it's a direction that makes sense for us. Let's face it, the owners didn't come into this business to wait another five years for us to make the playoffs. They'd rather make this happen sooner, and that was the direction that we had from them, and in return we said we'll do that as long as we're not significantly damaging ourselves in key areas. But, yeah, they played a part in this process.

Q. ...(Inaudible) The only goalie I can recall that made it right away is Tom Barrasso. Are teams too hesitant to take a goalie?

MIKE MILBURY: We all know, that's the most important position in hockey. And I would like to have kept depth there, but we needed to fill other things, fill other leads. But if you believe me when I say that goaltending is the most important position in hockey -- I don't know. Our hockey culture is so lucky to make that decision.

Q. Last year you were concerned about stuffing Luongo in early, thinking it might hurt his progress down the road. What made you change your thinking about that?

MIKE MILBURY: DiPietro: His attitude, his approach to the game, his manner.

End of FastScripts…

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