Windsor

'Windsor will always be home': goalie DiPietro heads to nation's capital

The Windsor Spitfires are saying goodbye to Michael DiPietro. After three seasons with the Spits, DiPietro heads to the Ottawa 67's.

2018 Goalie of the Year holds single-season franchise for shutouts

Michael DiPietro signed as an NHL prospect to the Vancouver Canucks last spring. (Ontario Hockey League)

The Windsor Spitfires are saying goodbye to Michael DiPietro.

After three seasons with the Spits, DiPietro heads to the Ottawa 67's. 

"I saw him grow into a fine young goalie," said Spitfires vice president and general manager Warren Rychel. "He was probably the best kept secret in the OHL draft that year we got him."

The 19-year-old Amherstburg goaltender is fresh off an invitation Monday to the world junior's camp, after being cut from last year's lineup.

DiPietro is one of three goalies invited to the selection camp, after he backstopped the Spitfires to a Memorial Cup title in 2017. 

DiPietro said Windsor will always have a "special place" in his heart.

"I'm excited to be going to Ottawa, but I'll miss it here," said DiPietro. "I'm a Spitfire. Always will be, everywhere I go."

Michael DiPietro stands alongside Windsor Spitfires GM Warren Rychel. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

He said his on-ice legacy will speak for itself, but he hopes people will remember him by his actions off the ice too. 

Grant O'Keefe, who coached him between 2008 to 2012, is a witness to some of those actions.

He said DiPietro made occasional visits back to St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Secondary School in LaSalle to speak to students, but never wore Spitfires gear, because he wanted to be treated like a regular kid. 

"Ironically I had to pull him in his last game," O'Keefe recalled the OFSAA game that challenged the team. He said DiPietro went to him after, telling him to put on the other goalie.

"That's how mature he was. Even in Grade 9, he saw the big picture," said O'Keefe.

DiPietro, second from the left, played hockey on his high school team. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

And into his adulthood, DiPietro is being remembered as a great teammate.

"Not enough can be said for what he's done for the team off the ice," said Rychel, calling DiPietro "great people."

The 67's general manager, James Boyd called DiPietro a "tremendous competitor."

"Our fans will appreciate Michael's character and work ethic," Boyd said in a release. "We're excited with the outstanding goaltending depth this acquisition provides our team moving forward."

Michael DiPietro led the Windsor Spitfires to the Memorial Cup in 2017. (CBC News)

The release calls the trade one of the "biggest in the modern history of the 67's," highlighting DiPietro's 29 wins in 2017 and 30 wins in 2016. 

"It took a long time, negotiating with Ottawa," said Rychel. "[DiPietro] is going to a great place."

Rychel said it was probably the hardest deal they've ever made. 

"We always try to do the right thing for our fans," said Rychel. "It's tough but you have to weigh 30, 35 games of Mikey versus 500 games of somebody else."

In return for the trade with Ottawa, the Spitfires get a 17-year-old forward from Russia named Egor Afanasyev. Most recently, Afanasyev played for Michigan State University. 

WATCH: Tap on the player below to see highlights from newly-signed Spitfire Egor Afanasyev.

"He's a heck of a hockey player," Rychel said about the new acquisition. "I think he'll instantly come in and help us."

The Spitfires also get Ottawa's second round picks in 2019, 2022 and 2023 along with London's second round pick in 2021. Three conditional picks also come to the Spitfires — Ottawa's second pick in 2021 and Ottawa's third picks in 2021 and 2022.

The Spitfires send their fourth round 2020 pick and Kingston sends their second round 2024 pick to Ottawa to seal the deal.

Spitfires head coach Trevor Letowski said news of the trade was an emotional moment.

"That's the tough part about junior hockey," said Letowski. "He is a really popular teammate."

DiPietro signed as an NHL prospect to the Vancouver Canucks last spring. 

He plays his first games for the 67's this weekend in Ottawa.

"Hopefully I can be a good piece to that puzzle," said DiPietro. He expects to be in the net Friday night or Saturday afternoon. 

"I wouldn't be where I am in my career without Windsor, without this organization," said DiPietro. "Windsor will always be home." 

To fill the new vacancy on the Spitfires' goalie roster, the team has acquired Colton Incze from the Niagara Icedogs. In exchange, the Spitfires traded their fourth round draft pick in 2022.

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