Windsor Spitfires

Spitfire player Michael DiPietro visits Stella Maris

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Amherstburg native and Spitfires player Michael DiPietro had a chance to visit his old grade school to speak with students about the importance of education.

Stella Maris students gave DiPietro a very warm welcome when he walked into their gymnasium. Principal Sophie DiPaolo said through the Adopt-A-School program, they get two batches of tickets that they use as incentive for the students. Any time they are a good friend, they show compassion, they’ve made improvements, anything good, the teacher recognizes them with Rockstar tickets. From those Rockstar tickets, the school draws three tickets from primary, three from Junior and three from senior, and they give out packages of four Spitfire tickets for them to go see the Spitfires home game.

Michael DiPietro made a grand entrance into the Stella Maris gymnasium, where students greeted him with cheers, Spitfire colored pompoms, and smiles.

“We’re really fortunate to have that here at Stella Maris and the kids love it, they love the Spitfires,” said DiPaolo. “We try to give back to the Spitfires because of what they do for us and then every year they send a Spitfire player here. This is the first year we’ve been able to have Michael DiPietro because his schedule would never allow it. In High School it’s a little bit harder but he’s in University now so we were excited to know he was coming back here and of course you want to do something special for him.”

In addition to speaking with the gymnasium full of students, DiPietro also had a pizza lunch with a handful of Rockstar students who had the ability to sit and chat with him over a pizza lunch.

“I went to this grade school, I had so many memories here, so many teachers. That’s something that I’ll always remember,” said DiPietro. “Hopefully I can keep coming back and visiting because every time I step in the door I just remember old memories. It’s definitely special.”

During his visit, he also pointed out his fifth grade teacher, Mike Mathieson and gifted a signed goalie stick to him. DiPaolo said no one can say enough good things about DiPietro and he is a great role model for the students.

“Kids always want to look up to someone and he was not only a great student here and does talk about how important education is but he’s a great role model in the community,” said DiPaolo. “He’s just a wonderful role model in general, a good person, good everything, with or without the Spitfire jersey.”

DiPietro receives “Key to the Town”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Michael DiPietro’s hockey talents have led him to the Windsor Spitfires with those same talents opening doors for him in Vancouver.

However, his hometown of Amherstburg has given him the “Key to the Town” and the knowledge that the door is always open for him to come home.

DiPietro, 18, backstopped the Spitfires to a Memorial Cup in June and was presented the key by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo Thursday morning in front of town hall. DiPietro said the recognition was something that he will cherish.

“It’s a great honour,” said DiPietro. “Being from Amherstburg and to be able to get the first key ever handed out by the mayor to the town, is something I hold very dear to me. I’m very humbled.”

Windsor Spitfires goalie and Vancouver Canucks draft choice Michael DiPietro (left) accepts a Key to the Town from Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Windsor Spitfires goalie and Vancouver Canucks draft choice Michael DiPietro (left) accepts a Key to the Town from Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

DiPietro was joined by many friends and family members and was quick to give credit to his family for the honour.

“I’m grateful for all they’ve done for me and continue to do for me,” said DiPietro.

Noting he was glad to have so many people there for the ceremony, the Vancouver Canucks’ third round draft choice added it was a lot of hard work and dedication to get where he is and his family has been a big part of it.

Even with a ceremony in his honour, DiPietro continues to work on his craft and getting to the next level. He awoke at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and trained in the gym and said he was scheduled to be on the ice in the afternoon.

“It’s a good busy,” he said of his schedule. “I’m definitely not complaining on how busy I am.”

Training camp for the Spitfires starts Aug. 27 and DiPietro adds he heads to Penticton, British Columbia for the start of the Canucks’ training camp Sept. 6. He anticipates having more of a leadership role with the Spitfires this season and hopes to teach younger players and “bring them along.”

DiCarlo acknowledged that a “Key to the Town” is usually given to “people of age with a lifetime of achievements behind them.” He added that “Amherstburg is rebuilding, riding a three-year positive turnaround with a very bright future.”

The mayor said “it follows that the first key go to someone young, a youth from our community – Amherstburg’s future.

“I can think of no better example than Michael DiPietro,” said DiCarlo. “At his young age, he has already accomplished a great deal with a lifetime of achievements still ahead of him.”

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillor Diane Pouget congratulate Michael DiPietro (second from left) on receiving the Key to the Town

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillor Diane Pouget congratulate Michael DiPietro (second from left) on receiving the Key to the Town

DiPietro’s hockey career started when he was six-years-old with the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association. He advanced to Sun County AAA when he was ten-years-old. In 2015, he was the first goalie selected in the OHL draft when the Spitfires drafted him in the second round. He also won a gold medal for Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games and competed for the Canadian national men’s U17 team.

In 2016, he competed for the Canadian national U18 team with 2017 being a big year so far with the Memorial Cup and World Junior Camp invite as well as being drafted by the Canucks.

“Michael’s talent, continued hard work and dedication to his sport has undoubtedly allowed him to reach his goals,” said DiCarlo. “It will continue to propel him forward and will undoubtedly have a positive influence as an exemplary role model on the youth of our community.”

DiCarlo added that no matter where DiPietro’s career takes him, “he will always be welcome in Amherstburg” and hoped that DiPietro considers the town home for the rest of his life.

Spits goalie does meet and greet with Memorial Cup at Seasons

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Residents at Seasons Amherstburg got a chance to meet a local hockey player who has done well for himself in recent months as well as the prestigious trophy his team won.

Amherstburg native and Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro brought the Memorial Cup to the retirement community last Wednesday night where residents and staff spent one hour asking him questions, getting his autograph and taking pictures with him.

Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro brought the Memorial Cup to Seasons Amherstburg last Wednesday night. He stands with his aunt June Ackley and grandmother Betty DeLuca.

Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro brought the Memorial Cup to Seasons Amherstburg last Wednesday night. He stands with his aunt June Ackley and grandmother Betty DeLuca.

Telling the residents that “I grew up five minutes from here,” the 18-year-old DiPietro noted he has been busy this summer with part of his agenda being to do appearances like the one at Seasons. He is also busy getting ready for the 2017-18 hockey season, as he works out five times per week and is skating four times per week.

The Memorial Cup champion’s summer also includes a trip to Plymouth, Michigan as part of his bid to make the Canadian World Junior hockey team. The 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase runs July 28-Aug. 5 with 12 international competitions between Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States.

“Hopefully, I’ll be in Buffalo on Boxing Day,” he said, as that is the day the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships start.

DiPietro was drafted in the third round of the NHL draft by the Vancouver Canucks last month and heads for the west coast in September for a “Young Stars” tournament and training camp.

“It’s definitely a quick summer for me,” he said.

Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro has his photo taken with 100-year-old Jean Farr during his visit July 26.

Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro has his photo taken with 100-year-old Jean Farr during his visit July 26.

Responding to a question from a member of the audience, DiPietro said he has a good relationship with new Spitfires head coach Trevor Letowski.

“We have a happy medium,” said DiPietro.

One of the residents getting a signed poster was former mayor Bill Gibb, who now resides at Seasons.

“Just having (DiPietro) in Amherstburg is a big event,” said Gibb. “I’ve been a hockey fan all of my life. When you meet one of the greats, it’s a pleasure.”

Gibb said hockey players work hard as it’s not an easy sport to play.

Amherstburg resident Michael DiPietro shares a laugh with Doug Ramsey during DiPietro's visit to Seasons Amherstburg July 26. DiPietro is the goalie for the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.

Amherstburg resident Michael DiPietro shares a laugh with Doug Ramsey during DiPietro’s visit to Seasons Amherstburg July 26. DiPietro is the goalie for the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.

“Having him show up here was a nice thing,” said Gibb.

Jean Farr was also happy to meet DiPietro, recalling the days when she lived in London with husband Bernard and they would travel to Toronto to see games.

“My husband and I loved hockey,” she said. “We would go anywhere to see hockey. That was my husband’s sport.”

Members of DiPietro’s family were also there for the occasion.

“I’ve known this kid from day one,” said June Ackley, DiPietro’s aunt. “I’ve got a picture of him when he’s about three years old.”

Betty DeLuca, DiPietro’s grandmother, sat in the front row in Seasons’ theatre room in her Spitfires’ sweatshirt watching her grandson sign autographs.

“It’s hard to believe he’s done so well,” she said, adding she was very proud of her grandson.

Amherstburg’s DiPietro drafted by the Vancouver Canucks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Canuck it Up! Festival doesn’t come to Amherstburg until August but Michael DiPietro decided to “Canuck it up” a little early.

DiPietro, the Amherstburg native who helped backstop the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup title, was selected in the third round of last weekend’s NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. DiPietro was selected 64th overall, appropriate because he wears #64 with the Spitfires.

Michael DiPietro of Amherstburg was drafted last Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks. (Special to the RTT)

Michael DiPietro of Amherstburg was drafted last Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks. (Special to the RTT)

The 18-year-old netminder was happy to be drafted and also pointed out he was happy to go to a Canadian team.

“It’s a great feeling, especially going to an organization that truly believes in you,” said DiPietro. “There’s nothing like playing in Canada. I can’t wait to get started.”

DiPietro said he was nervous after the second round concluded, as he thought he had a chance of being selected in the latter half of that round. His name was finally called two picks into the third round, noting he heard “Windsor” then his stepmother Assunta scream.

“It was definitely a great feeling,” he said. “It doesn’t hit you until you pull that jersey over your head.”

His selection at number 64 wasn’t lost on him either.

“My mom was watching from above,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that.”

DiPietro’s mother Becky passed away when he was a child.

Michael DiPietro heads to the draft floor after having his name called 64th overall in the June 23-24 NHL Draft. The Windsor Spitfires' goalie was the second pick of the third round.

Michael DiPietro heads to the draft floor after having his name called 64th overall in the June 23-24 NHL Draft. The Windsor Spitfires’ goalie was the second pick of the third round. (Special to the RTT)

A emotional twist at the NHL Draft came via Michael’s wardrobe. He surprised his father Vic by wearing a tie that Vic had received from Becky years ago with Vic surprising Michael with cuff links that included diamonds that came from the earrings his mother used to wear. Credited with the idea regarding the diamonds was Assunta.

The Canucks hold goalies in high regard, he said, so he is happy to be chosen by the Pacific Division club. He heads west Thursday and will go to Whistler with other prospects and will skate in Vancouver next week at a development camp. DiPietro met with Canucks officials at the draft, including president Trevor Linden, general manager Jim Benning and goalie coach Dan Cloutier, and was told he and fellow goalie prospect Thatcher Demko are seen as the future for the team in goal.

“That’s nice to hear,” said DiPietro.

After being selected, he went to the Canucks’ table on the draft floor and met the team’s executives. He met with the media for about 30-35 minutes and also did an interview with TSN Vancouver radio. Photos, signings and a number of other obligations kept him busy most of the day Saturday with that also including heading to Vancouver’s suite in Chicago’s United Center where he met even more team officials.

“All in all, it’s a day I’ll never forget,” he said.

The career trajectory for DiPietro is likely another year or two in the OHL and some time in the American Hockey League (AHL) before making the NHL, but he’s hoping to make the NHL as soon as he can.

Vancouver was a team he spoke with at the recent NHL draft combine in Buffalo.

Michael DiPietro shows cufflinks his father Vic gave to him. The cufflinks feature diamonds that  originally were part of his mother’s earrings. Michael surprised his dad by wearing a tie his mother originally gave his dad.

Michael DiPietro shows cufflinks his father Vic gave to him. The cufflinks feature diamonds that originally were part of his mother’s earrings. Michael surprised his dad by wearing a tie his mother originally gave his dad. (Special to the RTT)

“We had a really good conversation at the combine,” he said, noting he also met with Benning and Linden at that point as well. “Things kind of snowballed from there.”

Thus far, DiPietro plans on sticking with his usual training regimen, including working with goalie coach Brian Spearing and trainer Rob Maggio.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said.

The last few weeks have been busy yet exciting for DiPietro, as the Spitfires won the Memorial Cup May 28 and he was drafted less than a month later.

“It’s probably been the best month of my life,” he said.

A group of Stella Maris students were walking back to school Monday afternoon when they came across the new NHL draftee and had their photo taken with him.

A group of Stella Maris students were walking back to school Monday afternoon when they came across the new NHL draftee and had their photo taken with him. (Special to the RTT)

The 6’0”, 202 lbs. goalie knows he isn’t the biggest netminder around, but he said he is confident in his ability. His ability to stop pucks will also lead him to a World Junior camp in July.

Roughly 30-35 friends and family went to Chicago for the draft to support him and DiPietro said he is thankful to everyone for the support. He said it was special to share the experience with everyone.

DiPietro had a 2.35 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and a franchise record six shutouts in the 2016-17 regular season in Windsor, where his record was 30-12-6.

Memorial Cup down, NHL draft to go for DiPietro

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“You’re at a loss for words at that point. I think you do so much throughout your whole career and you’re never guaranteed winning. Very few times do you have the privilege to win in a season and to be able to do that especially from around here is something special that I hold dear and that I never will take for granted.”

When Michael DiPietro started out on the ice as a young boy, he never imagined he’d go pro, but at the end of the week he will be in Chicago, waited to get drafted by an NHL team. The six-foot tall, 193 pound goalie is relying on his compete level, momentum, work ethic and ability to make the right save at the right time to get him through.

“I think going in with an open mind, a clear mind, you don’t want to get your hopes too high or too low,” said DiPietro, who made the Memorial Cup all-star team during the Spitfires’ recent triumph. “If I hear my name called in the first round I’ll be ecstatic, if I hear my name called in the second round I’ll be pumped, I do recognize goalie is a unique position and not everyone is going to draft a six foot goalie. I think the teams that do believe in me and know what I can do will fall in the right place.”

Peter Leardi, owner of 67 Richmond, dressed Michael DiPietro for his NHL draft. He has known DiPietro since he was in diapers, and said, “for Michael to come back and give me the honor of doing his suit for his NHL draft, it’s a big honor for me.”

Peter Leardi, owner of 67 Richmond, dressed Michael DiPietro for his NHL draft. He has known DiPietro since he was in diapers, and said, “for Michael to come back and give me the honor of doing his suit for his NHL draft, it’s a big honor for me.”

When it came to his OHL draft day, family and friends surrounded DiPietro. He said he had two TVs on in the house.

“It’s a feeling out process,” said DiPietro. “I had team Ontario where I won gold there during the Canadian Winter Games so I felt pretty confident going into the draft but anything can happen with trading picks and so on, so I knew Windsor had the first pick in the second but I really wasn’t sure coming into it. I kept an open mind.”

One of the obstacles DiPietro has had to overcome as a goalie is certainly his size, but he has adjusted his gameplay and often plays more aggressively outside of the paint and gets into spots where he can cut down the angle, especially in upper portions of the net the way taller goalies would. DiPietro explains he just has to move an extra couple inches and his speed, agility and quickness allow him to do just that.

During the NHL scouting combine May 29 through June 3 in Buffalo, DiPietro explained he met with 16 teams.
“I’m not naïve to the fact that, if a team I was talking to throughout the year didn’t want to interview me, it was because they already knew so much about me,” said DiPietro. “It was a time for teams who really didn’t know me to get to know me and have the opportunity to meet with me face to face. I went in with the approach that I only have one chance to make a good first impression and that was my mindset going into it. With the testing at the end, the teams were aware how long my season was, they weren’t really too worried about the testing aspect, but I told them I wanted to test and show them my work ethic.”

This past regular season, DiPietro had a .971 save percentage and 2.35 goals against average with the Windsor Spitfires. He showed similar numbers in their seven-game series against defending OHL champs, the London Knights, with a .917 save percentage and 2.48 goals against.

In DiPietro’s first year with the Windsor Spitfires, he played 29 games, which he said is pretty good for a rookie goalie and this allowed him to build his momentum and bring it forward into this season. He said while not every game goes the way you want it to, it’s all about the way you rebound and his rookie season allowed him to learn from his mistakes and continue improving.

Amherstburg native Michael DiPietro will be in Chicago this weekend for the NHL draft. The Windsor Spitfires goalie hopes to be selected by a National Hockey League team.

Amherstburg native Michael DiPietro will be in Chicago this weekend for the NHL draft. The Windsor Spitfires goalie hopes to be selected by a National Hockey League team.

“I think my consistency definitely changed, my whole overall lookout, the way you approach games day in and day out,” said DiPietro. “Your body is your number one priority throughout the season because if it’s feeling good then that translates onto the ice and I think that was the biggest change and allowed me to play the games I did this year and have the success I did.”

As he heads off to Chicago at the end of the week, dressed for success in a suit by Peter Leardi at 67 Richmond, DiPietro said even making it this far was something he had only hoped for, but it was a one in a million chance and never truly believed it would come true.

“I think back then you have a dream,” said DiPietro. “You want to play in the NHL, you want to be a part of an organization and to be honest I never really thought it would happen. You believe it, you hope one day, and that’s why you play the game and one day you hope to make a career out of it. But I don’t play the game because of a job, I play because it’s something I love to do.”