OAKVILLE, ON. — The list continues to grow containing former NHL’ers that get lost in the outer hockey worlds each season. Once they’re out of the spotlight, all attention is shifted to the present and whatever you contributed to the club in the past is forgotten. Former Canadiens Oleg Petrov (Spartak Moskva of the KHL) and Paul Dipietro had little to nothing to with the 1993 Stanley Cup winning Montreal club, but 20 seasons later, they both have something they can say that the rest of that club can’t.
In 2012, they are still active professional hockey players.
Twenty-two years ago, in 1990, Paul DiPietro was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round after scoring 119 points in 66 games with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. It was rare to see players his height, 5-foot-9, ever get a chance to play in the NHL, but the Canadiens were willing to give him a chance. He split his rookie pro season (1991-92) between the Fredericton Canadiens of the AHL and Montreal, but with 17 points in 29 games during the 1992-93 season, the Canadiens thought well enough of Dipietro to keep him with the big club for the next couple of seasons.
The 1992-93 Canadiens didn’t have a spectacular regular season. The Canadiens finished only third in their division, and were coming off of a disappointing second round playoff exit against the rival Boston Bruins during the 1991–92 season, the third straight season the Bruins had defeated the Habs in the playoffs. It was a rough time for fans of the club, which only saw them win eight of the last 20 games of the season.
But the playoffs were a different story. Netminder Patrick Roy stood on his head for four rounds, and players such as Eric Desjardins and Vincent Damphousse really stepped up for the club. Dipietro surprised many of its doubters who thought he wouldn’t be able to make it in the NHL, scoring eight goals and 13 points in only 17 playoff games. In the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, when the L.A. Kings were trying to get back from being down 3-1, DiPietro killed any momentum the Kings had for a potential comeback by scoring the fourth goal in a 4-1 win. To this date, it is still the last goal scored in a Stanley Cup final by a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Two seasons after winning the Cup, Dipietro was sent to the dark side, getting traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1995 for the 1996 fourth round pick which turned out to be Kim Staal (not related to the NHL Staals if that’s what you were wondering), a Danish forward who played 64 games for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL in 2006-2007. Dipietro would get limited ice time with the Leafs, and after two seasons in which he played a total of 22 games, he only tallied 10 points.
After yet another trade, this time to Los Angeles, and only six games with the Kings in 1996-97, DiPietro decided to pursue his career elsewhere, signing with Kassel of the German league and later Ambri-Piotta of Switzerland before landing with EV Zug in 1999. Knowing that his North American career was likely over, Dipietro applied for a Swiss citizenship and would later come back to haunt his former country in international competition.
February 18th, 2006 will go down as one of Canada’s most disappointing losses in hockey history when Switzerland met Canada in Turin during the 2006 Winter Olympics. With players such as Joe Sakic, Rick Nash and Joe Thornton wearing red, white and black for Team Canada, Dipietro wasn’t even a sliver of a thought for the Canadians. In fact, he probably wouldn’t have represented Canada in anyway even if they sent 50 teams (he is still eligible to play for Canada). However, Dipietro proved to be the best Canadian on the ice, scoring the only two goals scored in a shocking 2-0 win for team Switzerland, the only time they have ever been able to defeat the hockey powerhouses from the land of maple syrup in international competion.
After eleven years of playing for EV Zug in the Swiss top league, National League A, DiPietro retired from hockey after the 2010-11 season; however it was short lived. The next season, he returned to the NLA to play with Langnau, the team currently housing Jared Spurgeon and Tyler Ennis, two NHLer’s with no NHL hockey to be apart of. This summer, when it was expected that he would finally call it quits, Dipietro signed a one year deal with EHC Seewen in the 3rd division in Switzerland at the ripe young age of 42.
One thing is clear. It doesn’t matter how old he gets, or where he plays, but Paul Dipietro truly loves the sport of hockey.
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