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.

Advertisements

Nobody’s an expert…

Okay, so I haven’t been posting… but I’ve been following what’s going on in the world of sports. I’ve just been too busy with writing three books and teaching full-time. I have thoughts but I’m not that obsessed to be posting daily.

Super Bowl aftermath: So many of these talk-show hosts on FOX Sports Radio and ESPN Radio are just full of it. They’ll say anything just to drive ratings, especially controversial stuff. Blah blah blah, “Bill Belichick goofed up” blah blah blah. So, you’ve got analysts who’ve never coached before criticizing a guy who’s won five Super Bowl titles as a head coach. Really. Seriously. How many titles have those analysts won? We’re talking about one of the greatest head coaches of all-time.

Same deal with certain people on ESPN who say there are red flags with the way Tom Brady played in the Super Bowl. Again, really? Brady threw for how many yards again? And he’s scrutinized? Yes, he fumbled the ball in the dying minutes, but c’mon.

The 49ers. C’mon, give me a break. A guy who’s started only seven NFL games, five for the 49ers, is now the savior in San Francisco? He started five games! Analysts are saying it’s a great deal to lock him up at that contract. How do these experts know he’s not going to be the next Matt Flynn? How many QBs in recent years have proven to be a bust after looking good for a few starts? And let’s not forget the guy played against some crappy teams such as Chicago, Houston, Tennessee… People are just content that this 49ers QB is playing well… just so they can say the Patriots and Belichick made a mistake. Blah blah blah.

Olympic hockey: Those (fans) who keep blaming Gary Bettman for NHL players not being in the Olympics this year should just get over themselves. All these naysayers do is blame Bettman for everything. Then, these same people don’t bother watching the Olympics anymore because the NHLers are not playing. Well, I have never understood the logic of temporarily stopping the NHL season for two weeks just for the Olympics. I don’t care how exciting the Games would become. The NHL should not have its season interrupted. It’s stupid.

41,821 sure isn’t “nobody”

According to a long-time FOX Sports Radio personality from Tennessee, whom I won’t name, he doesn’t watch hockey because “nobody watches hockey anyway.”

Well, attendance for the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day outdoor game was listed at 41,821, meaning tens of thousands of sports fans braved the elements to watch the league’s 10th “Winter Classic” at Citi Field – a 3-2 overtime victory by the New York Rangers over the Buffalo Sabres.

So much for “nobody,” huh? The personality who made that comment? His credibility is shot. How can one take any of his takes seriously?

Hockey Thoughts: Kyle Who again?

So, who the heck is Kyle What’s-His-Name-Again? Making big statements to the media about the Ottawa Senators owner wanting him out of town. Well, what exactly has this Kyle What’s-His-Name accomplished in the NHL that’s worthy of any significant contract he was seeking? Here again we have a greedy Canadian-born player not wanting to take any hometown discount to sign with a Canadian team, and then making big statements to the media bashing that club’s owner.

This is reminiscent to two decades ago in the mid-1990s when players like Peca and Primeau, 20-goal scorers at best, jacking up salaries and making it difficult for Canadian teams to compete against the American clubs.

So, even Canadian-born players don’t care about Canadian teams. Why should anyone else? If the Senators do relocate, you can blame clowns such as the likes of Kyle Wannabes.

Have you gotten a Christmas gift for the sports lover in your family?

Well, Christmas is a couple of weeks away, so have you bought a gift yet for the sports lover in your family?

If not, then why not one of these two books?

IMG_5345[1]

The hockey book is about the Boston-Montreal rivalry from 1988-1994, when the Bruins won five of the six series played between the two clubs, ending a streak of 18 consecutive playoff series losses to the Canadiens. Click to purchase this book here.

The baseball book is a biography of Tom Candiotti, the former knuckleball pitcher who pitched in the 1980s and 1990s. Candiotti won 151 major-league games and this book highlights his career. You can purchase this book here.

Get them for the sports lover in your family! 🙂