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Monday, Oct. 27, 9:27 a.m.
Sports

UMaine’s Diamond shows true colors off the ice, heads home to help clean damage from Sandy

Haley Johnston

Since beginning his career with the University of Maine men’s hockey team, senior forward Joey Diamond has spent 439 minutes in the penalty box according to USCHO.com — equivalent to more than seven games.

Yet, what may better represent Diamond aren’t those hundreds of minutes spent in the penalty box, but rather the five days he spent in his hometown of Long Beach, N.Y., one of the coastline towns that was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.

A born and bred New Yorker, Diamond grew up in Long Beach, spending his days at the famed boardwalk that stretched along the Atlantic Coast.

“They were hit pretty hard,” Diamond said of the roads.There was a lot of damage — it was pretty devastating, actually. They started the removal of our boardwalk. I had a lot of memories growing up there. It’s something that we’ll get through. There are a lot of people hurt.”

Diamond got to go home over the holidays, the first time since the storm, spending five days with family and friends. Aside from doing the traditional holiday events, the senior forward for the Black Bears spent the majority of his time doing what everyone else in Long Beach has been doing for the last two months: cleaning up.

“My house got hit. Not as bad as others, but our basement got hit pretty bad,” Diamond said. “Friends [got hit] too. Everybody has the same feeling. I know there was a lot of people just walking around, seeing if anyone needed help.”

Diamond was in Orono when news broke of the storm. As badly as he wanted to go home, commitments to his last year as a student and hockey player made it far too difficult to travel home. Finally being able to travel home and see the damage, Diamond said, was jarring.

“It’s always home, but it was devastating, going back, seeing everything,” Diamond said. “You see pictures [from the news], but going home and seeing peoples houses, what they’re going through now, your heart goes out to everyone. When I went home, some parts looked cleaned up while others still looked like a war zone.”

Despite the work done in his community, if you ask the common college hockey fan about Diamond, the descriptions of a hothead or a dirty player come to mind. All too often in sports, the impressions associated with player are based on how they act while they play for good or for bad. Some might see it as unfair, but it doesn’t bother Diamond.

“I think it’s completely fair. That’s what people see,” he said. “Probably only the guys in my locker room and on the coaching staff know how I really am away from the rink. That’s fine by me.”

One of the few people who really knows Diamond is UMaine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead. While most college scouts and coaches watched Diamond in the Ontario Junior Hockey League racking up penalty minutes — 213 in 45 games — Whitehead focused on Diamond’s production: 42 goals, 34 assists in 45 games.

“That’s probably why other teams passed on him, but I love Joey — always have,” Whitehead said. “From the moment I saw him play in Ontario when he was a youngster, I knew he was a true Black Bear.”

Whitehead and the UMaine coaching staff have tried to work with Diamond in acknowledging certain situations on the ice where it’s not in the best interest to be called for a penalty. Whitehead admitted it’s difficult to separate those poor qualities in Diamond’s game from what makes him great.

“That’s an ongoing challenge, and I think it will always be,” Whitehead said. “There are times when Joey’s been benched — missed shifts, missed games because of unnecessary penalties — but there’s other times he has helped us win games with his physical play and his courage to take hits and put his neck on the line for his teammates.”

While Diamond is never a fan of ending up in the “sin bin,” — after his record-breaking game against the University of Massachusetts on Nov. 16, Diamond told the media, “[The refs] kind of have it out for me a little bit” — he does admit that when he looks back at his record, which certainly looks safe for a while, he’ll take it in stride.

“I’ll definitely laugh at it,” Diamond said. “I already get a lot of jokes in the locker room. I play on the fence, and sometimes you cross it.”

Yet, despite his on-ice terror and attraction toward penalties, Diamond is about as soft-spoken as an athlete with a mean streak can be.

“His teammates and coaches know that he will go through a wall for them,” Whitehead said. “Sometimes I feel as though he will literally go through the wall. He’s that strong and that determined. Off the ice, people have no idea what kind of person he is. They would be surprised.”