Transatlantic sojourn paying off for Notre Dame’s DiPauli

By Tom Schreier

Thomas DiPauli - Team USA

Photo: University of Notre Dame forward and Washington Capitals prospect Thomas DiPauli has struggled with injuries so far in 2013-14, but still managed to make Team USA’s World Junior Championship squad (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Tommy DiPauli would call his biography “The Story of Sketchy Dips.” As a kid, his favorite television show was the “Powerpuff Girls.” His celebrity crush is Thor. Yes, DiPauli is one of a kind.

“That’s actually a joke between my mom and my sister,” he says, referring to his crush on Thor, the hammer-wielding god of thunder. “I went out to see the movie and he’s a good looking guy.”

He giggled (giggled!) after saying the final three words. And who can blame him? Chris Hemsworth is pretty easy on the eyes. But this is a hockey player! A rough, tough, sophomore center for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish!

And the Powerpuff girls — what’s that all about? Has this guy gone crazy? His favorite show growing up wasn’t Looney Toons, SpongeBob, or Batman: It was the Powerpuff Girls!

“I used to actually watch that show when I was like six,” he says, giggling again. “It had a lot of action, all the girls flying around and stuff.”

Asked who he could have a Powerpuff conversation with, he said teammate Vinny Hinostroza. “I don’t know if he likes it, but he would be the kind of guy who would like it,” he said, smiling in Hinostroza’s direction.

His teammate shook his head, smiled, and quickly headed into another room.

It is Hinostroza who, according to a Q&A written by Notre Dame sophomore Anna Gonzalez for NBC Sports, would play him in a biopic. The title of that biopic? The Story of Sketchy Dips, of course.

“That’s an inside joke between me and the team,” he says. “One of the guys on the team gave me that nickname just because I” — he pauses to giggle again — “ take girls down to the lakes on dates or whatever.

“I never know what I’m doing.”

Details on the Sketchy Dips are classified — perhaps being preserved for a novel later on down the road — but one thing is for certain: Expect the unexpected with Mr. DiPauli.

The Golden Domer isn’t all fun and games, though. Born in Italy, he moved to Chicago and joined the Chicago Mission amateur hockey team at age 12 and made the team with his brother Theo, who currently plays at Union College.

Born in Caldaro, he said that it was not uncommon to lace up the skates in Northern Italy. “A lot of people play because it’s Northern Italy, so it’s Swiss leagues, all those Austrian leagues compete against the Italian leagues,” he says. “It isn’t that bad, it’s pretty good, some people play over there when they’re retired.”

He started playing the game because a family friend suggested to his father, Alexander, who signed he and his brother up. He initially did not enjoy the game, crying as soon as his mother, Christina, dressed him up, but eventually he warmed up to hockey.

He says both his parents have been influential in his career, especially his father, who is not an American citizen and commutes between Italy and the United States every six months.

“It’s tough for him and my mom, but they’re willing to sacrifice, so it means a lot to me,” he says. “That definitely has a lot to do with the motivation. My brother and my sister too, sacrificing to switch schools all the time and making games to support us.”

Christina was in fifth grade when his family moved to America. “That’s a hard age,” DiPauli says. “You have your friends over there and you come over here and she didn’t really speak much English so it was kind of tough for her.”

His family’s sacrifices appear to have paid off. DiPauli spent two years in the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor before heading to South Bend. Last season, the Washington Capitals prospect had 12 points in 41 games for the Fighting Irish, but he has netted just one goal in 11 games this season due in part to an upper body injury. Despite the injury problems, however, DiPauli made Team USA's 2014 WJC roster, appearing in five game where he registered three assists.

In short, while he may have fun away from the rink, what this Powerpuff watchin’, Thor lovin’, Sketchy Dipper does on the ice is no joke.

Tom Schreier writes about the Twins, Wild, and Wolves for Yahoo Contributor Network. He previously covered Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and can be heard on 105 The Ticket in the Twin Cities. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.