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A look-back at the career of 1993 Cup champion Paul DiPietro

Let me first say this to get it out of the way: I’m not a Habs fan and I have never been a Habs fan. Growing up, I loved the Bruins and I thought Denis Savard (who played for Montreal in the early 1990s) was awesome – but I never rooted for the Canadiens in 1993. 

Having said that, the Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup run is a part of hockey history, and that championship is magnified every spring when the last Canadian-based team alive is eliminated – as no Canadian team (not Montreal Canadiens, but Canadian, period) has won a Cup since then. Even if I am not – and was not – a fan, it’s a story that still must be discussed. 

June 9th, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of the Cup clincher. To “celebrate” that, here’s sportswriter and blogger Rajan Nanavati with a guest post, discussing the career of forgotten Cup champion Paul DiPietro – an unsung hero who was a key contributor during Montreal’s 1993 run. 

K.P. Wee


The Interesting, Long-Lasting Hockey Life of Paul DiPietro

By Rajan Nanavati

In life, we tend to be so focused on where we’re going, that we often forget to take a step back and enjoy the journey.

If we could give advice to former NHL player and Stanley Cup champion Paul DiPietro, we would do so. While he was one of the stars of Montreal’s championship in 1993, it was a long and twisted road for DiPietro to get there.

In 1990, the Montreal Canadiens selected DiPietro with their fifth-round pick (102nd overall) in the NHL Draft. Despite scoring 119 points in 66 games as a member of the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), DiPietro lasted that long largely in part because of his size, or lack thereof — he was only 5-foot-9, which didn’t exactly give him the idea frame of someone destined for a long career in the league.

Like most rookies, DiPietro spent his entire rookie season playing with the Fredericton Canadiens — also known as the “Baby Habs” — of the American Hockey League (AHL). But, it didn’t take long for the “big league” Canadiens to realize that they might have a future contributor on their hands. In DiPietro’s rookie season, he had 70 points in 78 games, which included 39 goals.

Clearly encouraged by what they saw, DiPietro spent his next two seasons splitting time between Fredericton and Montreal, playing at last 29 games for the NHL club in both years. In fact, his 17 points in 29 contests during the 1992-93 season solidified a spot for DiPietro on Montreal’s postseason roster, as the Canadiens finished with the third-most points in the Prince of Wales Conference standings.

That decision would unquestionably pay dividends for Montreal. After the Canadiens found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the favored Quebec Nordiques, with the local media even saying that the Canadiens should consider trading away future Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, Montreal turned the tide in the series, winning the next four straight games. DiPietro would help Montreal clinch the series in emphatic manner, as he tallied a hat trick plus an assist in Game 6 of the series, giving Montreal the 4-2 series win.

In Game 1 against the Buffalo Sabres in the ensuing series, DiPietro picked up where he left off, adding another goal and an assist in Montreal’s 4-3 win. His goal in the first 6:23 of the second period helped give Montreal a 3-1 lead in the game. You could say that helped Montreal start off on the right foot against Buffalo, as they swept the Sabres in a series that lasted only six games.

In the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, DiPietro added two more goals and an assist in Montreal’s 4-1 series win against the New York Islanders. His goal in Game 2 helped tie the score up late in the second period, and Montreal would add another in the third to secure the win. DiPietro scored again in Game 4, though Montreal ended up suffering their lone defeat in the series; he was the only score for the Canadiens in their 4-1 loss.

Montreal then advanced to the 1993 Stanley Cup, giving them their third appearance in the league’s final series in a decade. However, while Montreal did most recently make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1989, they were on the losing end of the series, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames; it was only the second loss in the Stanley Cup in 33 years for the franchise that has been to and won the most Cups. Montreal had most recently won the Cup in 1986, but nothing after that.

The series had an added layer of intrigue, as Montreal would be facing off against Wayne Gretzky – “The Great One” himself – and the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky had led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships, but hadn’t been to the Finals after being traded to the Kings – until now.

Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and the Kings got off to a fast start, with Robitaille tallying two goals and Gretzky dishing out three assists (and a goal of his own) in the Kings’ 4-1 win over the Canadiens. But LA’s celebration would be short-lived, as Montreal would end up winning the next four games straight.

Ironically, in a series featuring the game’s greatest player in history, DiPietro is the name whom the history books will likely remember, as he scored two goals in the deciding Game 5 of the series, giving Montreal a 4-1 win in the game and the series. DiPietro scored the first goal of the game, and when Los Angeles tried to make a comeback while trailing 3-1 in the game (and the series), DiPietro scored the last goal of the game, which was effectively the nail in the coffin of the Kings.

Members of that Canadiens team that won in 1993 have all lauded how DiPietro emerged as one of the stars for Montreal in that series. Others commented on how DiPietro contributed as a fourth line or reserve player, giving them the types of clutch goals and key plays that are needed from guys deep on the roster in the postseason.

The hero of the 1993 run would go on to play another two seasons with Montreal; in the year after DiPietro helped Montreal win the cup, he registered a career-high 13 goals with the Canadiens. But two seasons later, Montreal traded him to the squad that was “persona non-grata” to any hockey fan in Quebec: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unfortunately, DiPietro bounced between the NHL and the minors once again, eventually culminating in the Leafs trading DiPietro to the Los Angeles Kings (in something of an ironic twist). But his career alongside Gretzky was very short-lived, as he spent the vast majority of his time in the IHL, with teams like the Phoenix Roadrunners and Cincinnati Cyclones.

But if you think that was the end of DiPietro’s career, you couldn’t be more wrong. DiPietro went on to play another 16 years of professional hockey, the vast majority of which took place in Switzerland. It wasn’t until 2014 when we officially saw DiPietro retire.

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One more knuckleball is one too many (guest post by Drew Farmer)

As I’ve been busy, I haven’t had the opportunity to post more regularly. In the meantime, here’s one from Fantasy Sports insider Drew Farmer.

One more knuckleball is one too many

By Drew Farmer   |   Twitter @DrewMFarmer   |   Facebook @DrewMFarmer

One more knuckleball is one too many… or perhaps one more season in the Big Leagues is too many. For former Major League Baseball player Phil Coke, the knuckleball was an attempt at preserving his Big League career. It was a chance for one more day in the sun as a member of the elite class of the boys of summer. Yet, one more knuckleball is one too many.

Coke’s dream of returning to The Show at 35-years old was spurred on by the befuddling pitch that defies bats, catchers’ mitts and the laws of physics. Coke hoped he could master the greatest pitch in a hurler’s arsenal for one more chance at MLB glory. It is the pitch few attempt and even fewer master. It is an uncontrollable slow-moving bastard of a pitch. But the nine-year veteran of the mound just didn’t have it and the knuckleball was too elusive.

Coke made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees as a relief pitcher. His stuff was average as his four-seam fastball hit the mid-90s and topped out at 97 on a good day. He was hittable, and for the most part, Coke’s ERA showed it. Good left-handed relief pitching is difficult to come by, however. The need for an arm to gobble up innings is a necessity and Coke played the role perfectly for the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays. His success as a relief pitcher provided Coke with the chance to play in the Big Leagues as a journeyman. The need to play match ups late in games gave Coke an extended career. Perhaps one others haven’t been afforded.

Coke’s best season came in 2010 as a Tiger. He recorded a 7-5 record while posting a 3.76 ERA in 74 games. He also had two saves. But as the arm declined, so did Coke’s chances. Every season was a fight to stay with an MLB team. Every spring there was the fear of being cut. He had to perform on the days he was called upon. Two innings here, four innings there; whatever he could get was a chance to impress. It was also a chance to move closer to the exit, if he gave up runs.

After bouncing around the bigs in 2015 and 2016, playing for four different teams, Coke’s MLB career was finished. He went to Japan and pitched one season for the Orix Buffaloes. It was more of the same for the hurler, and after just one season, the club parted ways with Coke.

Despite registering a 4.56 ERA in Japan, Coke had one last go at an MLB career. In the spring of 2018, he attempted a comeback. He was accompanied by a new pitch; the unharnessed, unreliable knuckleball.

Coke hoped to make a club in spring training, but the best he could do was a contract in Mexico with Acereros de Monclova. The knuckleball didn’t last long, however. Coke was released less than two months after signing on with Monclova.

The lefty reliever wasn’t able to get the knuckleball to work and impress clubs. Nor could he get his knuckleball to defy the bats and batters in spring training or south of the border. The odds of returning to MLB with a new pitch in his mid-30s were always against him. Although Coke is still searching for a team that will let him take the hill just one more time, it looks like one more knuckle ball is one knuckleball too many.

Sent by 514-841-1334…. Learn to write proper English before sending hate mail…

Yeah, what a coincidence, right? Someone called from 514-841-1334 – a telemarketer wanting to sell website services – and I hung up on him. Minutes later, I receive a piece of hate mail. Yeah, you’re so obvious….

By the way, if you can’t even write proper English, it’s like I would take you seriously, right? And, very classy, using my email address to fill out the contact form to send this hate mail.

*That’s the phone number that showed up on caller ID, but it’s a fake number. The call came from India, as the IP address indicates that.

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This is what I keep saying… but…

I keep saying in the press box at Nat Bailey Stadium, seven-inning games are the way to go… but everyone around me thinks, “Uhmm… NO!”

Ahhh, I guess I’m not the only one who has thought about how seven-inning games might be good for the game. Here’s an ESPN.com story discussing how Jim Kaat feels about this very subject!

Love it!

People who can’t change…

Redskins’ sources say the coach personally broke down the game tape with the quarterback. When they were finished assessing the Chargers game, George told the coach that he played as well as he can possibly play.

Chris Mortensen on ESPN.com in 2001

This is a blast from the past. When it happened, I was upset that then-Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer didn’t give Jeff George another chance. George had a great arm, I thought. He was way better than plenty of starters in the NFL, I thought. Why not give him another shot? Why didn’t anybody else give him another chance?

Now, as a teacher, I know. Sometimes, some people are uncoachable. Now, I’m not saying that George was like that. The stories penned by many football journalists implied that, including the one above. I don’t know George or anyone involved personally, nor have I talked to any of them. That’s what’s been suggested or implied based on what writers have written.

I had this student. Let’s call him Shawn.*

*The name has been changed to protect the student’s identity. 

I would tell Shawn, “All right, Shawn. Make sure you come on time moving forward. Class starts at 9:00, not 9:09.” His response? “I’m trying my best already,” he would retort. No, it’s not a traffic thing or commute issue. He lived about eight minutes away on foot. However, he chose to wake up every morning at 8:55, change, and rush to school.

He never brushed his teeth – it was obvious. You could smell it standing close to him.

I explained to him that you have to develop a good habit, wake up early, as it affects your future career, etc. It was in one ear, out the other. Now, I’m not talking about a child or teenager here. The guy was 26 years old.

“I’m teaching you to develop strong habits,” I would say.

“I have 10 minutes to be here. I don’t need to be here at 9:00,” he would say, referring to the school’s rule of allowing students a 10-minute window to arrive because of traffic. The 10-minute window is not for people who are lazy. And Shawn was exploiting the rule due to his laziness.

I would tell him to create a title and double-space anything that was to be handed in. I would remind the class every time. I even had a package that I handed out detailing examples of this. Every time he handed in his assignment, those two things were “forgotten.”

Now, we’re not talking about a learning disability. Shawn simply didn’t care. And it doesn’t matter how patient you are, his stubbornness was something he refused to change.

When he received a low grade for the term, he was “angry,” (his words). He thought that if he paid, he was a customer and should receive royal treatment.

The more I taught Shawn, the more I thought about the football example.

Then I realized… it’s true. Some people, unfortunately, can’t be coached. In life, that’s just the way it is.

Appearance on TSN1040 – Apr. 26, 2018

I was invited to be in studio for Season 10, Episode 2 of Vancouver Canadians Game Day by host Rob Fai, along with four other guests (Lou Filippo, John Stewart, Niall O’Donohoe, Steven Von Vooght).

Here is the link of the show.

I was part of the first half hour as well as the final hour, where “The Bullpen Session” was in session – a round-table discussion about the hot topics in baseball.

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Talking baseball on TSN Radio

canadians-game-day

I had the opportunity to talk baseball with Rob Fai last Thursday (April 19) as Vancouver Canadians Game Day made its 10th season debut. It wasn’t my best effort, but it’s always exciting to talk baseball.

Thanks to Rob for having me on in the first segment*. I strive to do better in future appearances.

*Not sure how long these links stay online, but I have downloaded a copy of the audio for my own collection.