At just 28 years old, Joe DiPenta achieved his lifelong goal: He won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. It was easily the best moment of this former NHLer’s career, and one he never thought he’d be able to top. “I don’t think there are many achievements I could make that are bigger than winning the Stanley Cup,” says the now 36-year-old.
Life, though, didn’t end with winning Lord Stanley’s prize. After playing his last professional game in 2011, DiPenta had to find something else to do. One job was being a father to his two-year-old daughter Chloe. He’s also held senior roles in two tech start-ups. But it’s his current gig, as executive director of the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC), that he enjoys the most. “Helping to cure cancer is certainly one job that compares with winning the Cup,” he says.
DiPenta’s journey from the ice rink to the office was not an easy one. The Cole Harbour native dreamed of playing in the NHL his entire life. But in 1998, he couldn’t agree to contract terms with the Florida Panthers, the team that had drafted him. He then played in the minors, where he was a rare goal-scoring defenceman. But when he was called up to the big leagues – he played his first game in the 2002–2003 season for the Atlanta Thrashers – his scoring dried up.
The only way he could make a name for himself was by working hard, grinding it out every day and being humble. That attitude paid off when he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2005, and he hoisted the Cup two years later.
“We are making change happen every year. Not someday off in the future.”
DiPenta takes the same disciplined approach that he learned on the ice to his post-hockey life. In August 2013, he was asked to head up the Atlantic Canada chapter of LLSC. Though he had co-founded an organization called Shoot for the Cure that raised money for children’s cancer charities, this was unknown territory for him. Still, he moved back to Canada to take it on.
Since joining the organization, DiPenta has been a fundraising superstar. He helped increase the amount the group raised in 2014 by 60 percent thanks to his Light the Night fundraising walk, which was sponsored by Investors Group. Another popular fundraiser that has done well is a series of children’s hockey clinics taught by former NHL players.
In his hockey career DiPenta always played a supporting role, and in the search to find a cure for cancer he may not be the main player either, but the contributions he’s making will certainly help the world’s cancer-fighting teams one day achieve their big goal: eradicating the disease. “We are making change happen every year,” he says. “Not someday off in the future.”