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Zaugg: Last man standing

From the Stanley Cup to Switzerland, Paul DiPietro has led a unique hockey life

14-05-08
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Quebec City Quebec Canada
Shot by Switzerland's Paul Di Pietro against Belarus. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Matthew Manor

QUEBEC CITY – If you’re a fan of Canadian hockey, you should come and watch Switzerland play Russia in the quarter-finals.

This could be your last chance to see a real dinosaur.

To see one of the very last Canadian players who has won the Stanley Cup with a Canadian team. If you miss this chance, you may never again see such a player.

There are many funny stories in international hockey. But Paul DiPietro has written one of the most interesting ones.

He is the only player in this tournament that has won the Stanley Cup with a Canadian team. He hoisted the cherished silver mug in 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens. Not only did he neutralize Wayne Gretzky throughout most of the finals, but he also scored twice in the Cup-clinching game versus the Los Angeles Kings. He doesn’t like to talk about this time: “Enjoy the present. Don’t waste your time with the past.” But then, he remembers anyway: "Oh boy, this time was like a big party. But I was young and I thought there would be many more things like this in my life. So I just enjoyed it."

Well, he had to wait a long, long time until the next big thing came along. For him, that was the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

There, he scored both goals when Switzerland upset Team Canada 2-0. It was one of the best games a Swiss national team has ever played, and still marks the only time Switzerland has beaten Canada in a World Championship or Olympics.

DiPietro, a native of Sault St. Marie, Ontario (and unrelated to New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro), has qualified to represent Switzerland internationally since 2005. He started playing in Switzerland in 1998, married a Swiss, made his home in Switzerland, and got a Swiss passport. He has now played more than 50 games for his adopted country.

From 1991 to 1996, he played a total of 192 NHL games (80 points), plus 31 more (21 points) in the playoffs for Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles. Then he moved for two years to Germany (Kassel). At last, in 1998, he came to Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss Alps with former Montreal teammate Oleg Petrov. In his best season in Switzerland, he tallied 82 points in 45 games. Today, he plays for EV Zug, where his contract runs through the end of next season. This year, he produced 41 points in 50 games, and has earned the nickname “Tricky Pauli” for his excellent stickhandling.

“You never really know what comes up next,” Paul says. “When I was in Montreal, we were joking about the guys going to the World Championships because they’d lost in the playoffs. And now, playing with Switzerland, I’ve realized how big and exciting a World Championship is. If you’ve never played in one, you’ve definitely missed something."

Asked about the secret of his long career (he turns 38 on September 6) he has a simple answer: “It’s a privilege to be a hockey player, and I’m just enjoying every practice and every game."

Will there ever be another Stanley Cup parade in Montreal? If so, DiPietro will enjoy it from his own apartment on St. Catherine Street. He still spends three months every summer in Montreal, where he won his Stanley Cup, but also lost his heart to the wonderful world capital of hockey.

KLAUS ZAUGG

Klaus Zaugg is a Swiss hockey journalist who has covered the IIHF World Championship since 1981. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the official views of the IIHF.

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