Michael DiPietro stayed close to home when it came to selecting the suit the 18-year-old Amherstburg native will wear in the stands at this year’s NHL Draft, which takes place Friday and Saturday in Chicago.
AMHERSTBURG – While he cannot control how the NHL Draft will play out, Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro is firmly in charge of how he will look for the event.
The 18-year-old Amherstburg native stayed close to home when it came to selecting the suit he will wear in the stands at the draft, which takes place Friday and Saturday in Chicago.
DiPietro went to 67 Richmond to have his suit done by owner Peter Leardi.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” DiPietro said. “I’ve always dreamt of getting a suit for myself strictly for the draft. Bringing my dad (Vic) in, and him being part of the process.
“I’ve known Pete for so long. I played high school hockey (at Villanova) with his son Colin. I’m from Amherstburg and it only felt right to do it in Amherstburg, especially with Pete.”
DiPietro’s request for a special suit was not a unique for Leardi, who handled the same duty in 2014 for Belle River’s Aaron Ekblad — the first pick overall that year by the Florida Panthers.
“I saw (Aaron’s dad) Dave at an Andy Paquette (skating) clinic,” Leardi said. “It was the year Aaron was going to the OHL as special status. I said, ‘I’d love to dress Aaron for the OHL when he’s ready to go.’”
Ekblad came in and became a regular whenever he was in need of a suit for a special occasion.
“Every time Aaron would need a new suit, he’d call me up,” Leardi said.
Former Spitfires and current NHL head coaches Paul Maurice, who is with the Winnipeg Jets, and Peter DeBoer, who is with the San Jose Sharks, also sought out Leardi for suits.
DiPietro is more like family.
“I knew Mike when he was in diapers,” Leardi said. “His birth mother worked for me and I did (his dad) Vic’s wedding suit. There was a connection there. I’ve known his uncles for years and went to school with them.
“A year ago, I told Vic, ‘I want to dress your son for the draft.’ Mike’s a hometown boy and a hometown success story. I couldn’t be more proud of him to allow us to do this for him.”
The whole process took weeks to bring together.
“A couple of fittings just to make sure it fits like a glove and make a couple of alterations here and there,” DiPietro said. “It’s an exciting time for me, and that suit is just something I hope makes me look like a million bucks. I want to look sharp and clean and add a little flash with the socks.”
Like Ekblad, he opted for blue.
“It’s the hot colour,” Leardi said. “It’s been a strong, strong colour for a couple of years now.
“When Ekblad came in, he knew what he wanted. He told me he was looking for this certain type of blue. When Mike came in, I went to fabrics and said, ‘Is this what you want?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, exactly.’”
From there, it was a matter of making sure the fit and look were exactly what DiPietro was looking for.
“Make sure the tailoring is right, nip and tuck and those little things,” Leardi said.
The pants had to be opened five-eighths of an inch to accommodate his calves, and while the shirt fit his neck, it had to be taken in two inches on the sides for a perfect fit.
“This generation, in the last five to 10 years of young men, is the fussiest generation in terms of fit that I’ve experienced in the 32 years I’ve been in business,” Leardi said. “If you get it, it’s good, because they seek you out. If you understand it, that’s even better. They’re grateful for it and a pleasure to work with because they want to look good. Who doesn’t want to dress somebody that wants to look good?”
On the mantel, behind the counter at 67 Richmond, is a shot of Ekblad in his suit as well as Maurice behind the bench. Leardi plans on making room for a shot of DiPietro as well.
“I like to keep the trend going for first-rounders,” DiPietro said of Ekblad going in the first round after getting a suit from Leardi. “I’d like to see their streak keep going.
“Hopefully that helps me. I don’t know what to expect that day, but I’m really looking forward to it.”