Some argue the craziest people in all of sports are ice-hockey goaltenders, who seek out a tiny chunk of rubber whizzing toward them at nearly 100 miles per hour. Sure, they wear padding and have special equipment to protect them, but to defy human nature and willingly take a hit from a puck – well, that would take a mad man, or a mad dog, in the case of Marksmen netminder Peter Di Salvo.
“When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I was on a baseball team called the Mad Dogs,” Di Salvo said. “During and after games, I was a typical kid, always excited; (I) loved being on the team. Since we were the Mad Dogs, I would get all hyped up like a dog regularly. My parents would call me Mad Dog as a joke to cater (to) me.”
The Mad Dog moniker stuck for Di Salvo, who at an early age knew he would be between the pipes every time he stepped onto the ice.
“When I was 6, I got my first goalie mask, and my parents decided to put “The Mad Dog” on my mask,” he said. “My team was the Oakville Rangers, so my parents got my mask painted to resemble Mike Richter’s (New York Rangers) helmet. The main difference was instead of the Statue of Liberty on the top of the mask, there was a bulldog, and the nickname has stuck ever since.”
Twenty-one years after receiving that mask, Di Salvo hasn’t slowed down. The veteran netminder appeared in his 100th Southern Professional Hockey League game December 1, 2017, in a game against the Peoria Rivermen.
He’s also found a second home during the summer months where he can continue to play the sport he loves in an unconventional place: Australia.
“Once the season is finished here in Fayetteville, I will be heading straight back to Canada ASAP for a few days and then head to Australia from there,” said Di Salvo, who will join the Perth Thunder for a second straight season this summer. “While I am there, we only play on weekends and only practice twice a week. During my spare time there, I work to earn money, do my own workouts and explore different parts of Australia.”
As for any differences between North American and Australian hockey, the most notable come off the ice, according to Di Salvo.
“There are a lot of differences between Australian and (North American) hockey. The main difference is the hockey family. Every team has their fans, and every team’s fans have so much respect for every other team, other teams’ players, owners, coaches, etc. … (there is) no negativity or tension between the teams and their fan bases.”
But before he can start thinking about his time in the land Down Under, he knows he has a job to do in Fayetteville.
“We just need to build off our success and consistently play smart hockey,” he said. “We need to create our own steady ride instead of being on a roller coaster with all the ups and downs. As long as we stick together and play for each other, we can have more success.”
Photo: Peter Di Salvo