He was the “Cinderella Man” on a Cinderella hockey team. With only four months of NHL experience, centre Paul Di Pietro played a key role in the Canadiens 24th Stanley Cup in 1993. . In that Canadiens run nineteen years ago, he scored 8 goals and assisted on 5 more in 13 games.
Di Pietro has called himself “the last guy standing”.
No truer words.
Di Pietro scored the fourth goal in the 4-1 deciding game win over Los Angeles at the Forum, the last goal scored in a Stanley Cup final by a member of the Canadiens. It is not only the Canadiens last championship but they are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, and also the last team who won it with only North American players and Paul Di Pietro the last of the twenty seven players listed on the Stanley Cup still playing professional hockey. Sunday Di Pietro, at the age of 42 was called up Sunday from the Swiss Third Division to play for Lugano of the Swiss National League.
What a hockey journey he has had. The Canadiens took him in the fifth round of the 1990 entry draft. He was small at 5’9″ but he had also scored 119 points in 66 games with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. He came up through the Canadiens minors and then play parts of four seasons and 188 games with the Habs before being moved to the Leafs and then to the minors. .
In 1998, thanks to a conversation with Doug Gilmour, Di Pietro headed for Europe. He joined Zug of the Swiss National League in 1999 and played 11 of the next 12 seasons with them.
Along the way he became a Swiss citizen In 2006, he gave Switzerland one of it’s greatest moments in sports when he scored both goals as Switzerland shutout Canada 2-0 at the Turin Olympics.
Including his first Swiss season with Ambri-Piotta (1998-1999) and then eleven seasons with Zug, DiPietro amassed 520 points (201 goals+319 assists) in 545 games.
They held a retirement ceremony before a game in Zug in October of 2011.
End of story.
Well not quite. Upon retiring from Zug, he couldn’t hang them up. He went to Sierre in the Swiss 2nd division but wound up being called up to Langnau. This year he started in the third division with EHC Seewen and when HC Lugano ran into an injury crisis the call went out again and in his 22nd year of professional hockey he’s back with a major professional league. Di Pietro is back. Tuesday he’ll make his SNL debut at home in Lugano against the league leading Geneva Eagles. The last member of the ’93 Canadiens is still playing the game.
Says Di Pietro, “Yes, I am the last guy standing. I believe that Mathieu Schneider was still played three seasons ago. But now it’s only me.”