'McDavid' plates let Edmonton plumber pose as hockey royalty

The black Ford F150, with ‘MCDAVID’ emblazoned in big red letters on the licence plate, rumbles through the streets of Edmonton.

'They look, they wave and smile and I wave back, but I'm not McDavid, I'm just Raffaele'

Raffaele Papaianni often turns heads with his bright red McDavid vanity plates. (Raffaele Papaianni)

The black Ford F-150, with "MCDAVID" emblazoned in red capital letters on the licence plate, rumbles through the streets.

Curious onlookers leer in the windows, smile gleefully and wave, hoping for a glimpse of Edmonton's 19-year old hockey prodigy.

But this isn't Connor McDavid's ride.

The truck and its coveted vanity plates belong to Raffaele Papaianni, an Edmonton plumber.

And for the record, Papaianni says he and McDavid look nothing alike, "not even close."

"You get people smiling in the daytime and you getting honking at night. So if you're at the light and you're stopped, they look, they wave and smile and I wave back.

"But I'm not McDavid. I'm just Raffaele."

'It's the only one in Alberta'

The 31-year-old bought the plates months before McDavid-mania truly gripped Alberta's capital city.

When the Edmonton Oilers won the first round pick in the 2015 NHL draft and McDavid seemed destined to join the team, Papaianni and his father concocted a plan.

They were watching the draft lottery at home when inspiration struck.

"We watched the lottery that night on the Saturday and the gold ticket came up for the Oilers, the gold card," Papaianni said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"And my dad, Alfonso, came up with the idea of getting the plate, and he asked me what I thought. And I said, 'Well, if it's still there on Monday, then we should get it.' 

"All praise goes to my dad." 

Alfonso rushed to the registry and bought the McDavid plates as a birthday gift for his son.
Raffaele Papaianni, and his father Alfonso bought the vanity plates after the Oilers earned top pick in the 2015 draft. (Raffaele Papaianni/Facebook )
But father and son kept their acquisition secret until the moment was right. They didn't even tell co-workers at the plumbing and heating company they co-own and manage together. 

"We never told anybody, except mom, until he was drafted," said Papaianni. "We kept it quiet for two months.

"And then the moment he was drafted, that night, we put it on the truck."

Papaianni has proudly carried the McDavid mantle on his dusty black truck ever since, causing a stir wherever he goes. He and his plates were even featured in the New York Times

"Dad has been a season-ticket holder for over 20 years, I've been for 18," said Papaianni.

"We're big fans and we thought it would be cool, and we've had fun with it ever since we got it."

Papaianni has had to double-bolt the plates to deter hot-handed hockey fans from stealing them, and keeps a spare set at home just in case.

He relishes all the attention. Not to mention the fact that he has something the beloved Oilers star could never get his gloves on. 

"It's the only one in Alberta. "McDavid can't get it," Papaianni says with a laugh. "I don't know why he would want it, but he can't get it," 

"Maybe he could sign it for me, that would be cool. But I don't know how long it would last."