Canada Winter Games Quintessential Opportunity for Minor Midget Hockey Players
Date: Nov, 19, 2018 12:17 PM EDT
ONTARIO - Undoubtedly one of the most notable Team Ontario gold medalists from the 2015 Canada Winter Games, Michael DiPietro has used his experience on the men’s team to propel himself into the hockey world.
Now four years since the games, DiPietro has represented Canada at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge and World U-18 Championships, hoisted the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires and was selected in the 3rd round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks.
We sat down to speak with the goaltender about his experience at the games and how his life has changed since earning Canada Winter Games gold four short years ago.
What was the experience of participating in the Canada Winter Games in 2015 like for you?
“It was definitely a really cool experience. In minor hockey you really don’t get that kind of taste of the next level until obviously you get there, but with Team Ontario I was able to play in front of a lot of people to kind of get used to that.
Also, it brought players that I had played against growing up my whole entire minor hockey career together, it was a really cool experience that really embodied who Canada is.”
What did that mean for you to not only compete for, but also to bring home the gold medal on behalf of your province?
“Yeah it (the gold) was definitely a goal of ours heading into it, all of us on Team Ontario really wanted to obviously win, and then as the games were closer it got more meaningful - especially when you play against the bigger provinces.
I still remember the final game, everybody was in the room and we kind of approached it like every other game in the tournament and I think it really helped us. Beating Alberta was definitely a game that not only I remember, but all of our team mates do for sure.”
Can you speak to your experience with the then assistant coach Jeff Jordan who has been named as the Head Coach of Team Ontario for the 2019 Canada Winter Games?
“Jeff and I actually got closer and closer as the tournament went on and you know he is a coach that I would probably say I was the closest with when I was with Team Ontario.
Seeing he got the head coaching job, there is probably nobody that is a better fit for it. Especially going through it with us four years ago.
I think they are definitely in good hands as well with Jeff, he is a player’s coach - I think that players would want to play for him and I think he will continue with the success that we had four years ago.”
If you were to speak directly to the players who are going to be selected to Team Ontario, what sort of advice would you give them?
“I think this is the biggest stepping stone for Hockey Canada, for them to look at the new young talent in Canada for the winter sport, so just be professional in everything that you do – not only on the ice, but off the ice. Hold doors open, clean up after yourself, keep your room tidy when you stay there - I think that is all stepping stones to being not only a good athlete, but a good person and I think they will definitely benefit there.”
How did the experience of competing at the Canada Winter Games influence or effect your hockey career thus far?
“I think it definitely set the tone. When you are in that tournament like that, I think it has helped prepare me for the Memorial Cup with how intense every game was.
Basically, it forced us to get close in a very short time with the team and I think it is a really good stepping stone for any major tournament any of these young athletes go into, whether it be with Hockey Canada or their Junior Team or even NCAA, whichever way they choose to go. So, I think this tournament is very unique because you are representing your country, but you’re also representing your province and I think not a lot of people understand that but it’s definitely an honour any time you get to represent your country and your province and you know for the players it’s a good opportunity for them.”
Players will continue to be evaluated throughout the start of the 2018-19 season with the final team being named in early January. Prior to departing for the tournament, a camp will take place with all team members in Toronto.
About Team Ontario - Team Ontario consists of the top U-16 hockey players from across the province. In the last 13 Canadian Winter Games, Team Ontario has earned five gold medals, one silver medals and two bronze medals, including the defending champion from the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, BC, having defeated Team Alberta in the Gold Medal Game. This team included current OHL standouts Nick Suzuki, Owen Tippett and of course DiPietro.
About the 2019 Canada Winter Games – From February 15 until March 3, 2019, the eyes of the nation will be on Red Deer, Alberta as they host the 2019 Canada Winter Games - the largest multi-sport and cultural event for youth in Canada and the largest event to be hosted in Red Deer’s history. Featuring over 150 events in 19 sports and a major arts and cultural festival, the 2019 Canada Winter Games will welcome up to 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches and more than 100,000 spectators, with a forecasted economic impact of over $132 million. The 27th edition of the Canada Games, the 2019 Games is set to provide a stage for Canada’s next generation of national, international and Olympic champions to compete and will leave a legacy for athletic and leadership greatness in Red Deer. For more information on the 2019 Games, please visit: canadagames.ca/2019.