It was a whirlwind weekend for the Giampa family of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
On Friday, Arc Giampa drove to Toronto for daughter Madison’s first game at the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincials. He rushed home later that night to be in front of the computer the next morning with his wife Bonnie. Their 15-year-old son Matteo, a St. Michael Catholic Elementary School grad and current Holy Cross honour student, was expected to be chosen in the 2019 Ontario Hockey League draft.
As the morning progressed, Matteo watched as Connor Fedorkow, his teammate on the Niagara North Stars AAA team, was chosen by the London Knights in the third round, 53rd overall. “I was super happy for him,” said Matteo. “He worked hard and he totally deserved it.”
Prior to the draft, Matteo had been approached by 19 of the 20 teams in the OHL, the lone holdout being Flint. Two of those teams, Mississauga and London, invited him to their facilities for a personal visit. At both, he spent a day meeting the players and coaches, and watching their games that same day.
Once his teammate had been chosen, Matteo began to seriously consider where he might end up.
In the seventh round, when he finally heard his name called, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. At number 142 overall, Matteo was drafted by that very same London Knights team. Though he would have liked to have been drafted higher, he was thrilled to be going to the Knights.
“It’s pretty exciting to be drafted by the same team as Connor,” said Matteo. “We’ve played together for about five years now.”
As it began to sink in at the family home, he said, “my mom was a mess. She was bawling her eyes out. And my dad got a bit emotional, too.”
Arc says his son “has always aspired to play in the OHL. It’s amazing to see him achieve his dream.”
The whirlwind continued, as it was back to Toronto for the OWHA tournament, where Madison’s team was knocked out in overtime Saturday.
Then Sunday, the entire family drove up to London to take in the Knights’ 7-0 thrashing of the Guelph Storm in Game 2 of their Western Conference semi-final. Matteo and the other draft picks were invited to the game, and had their moment in the spotlight at centre ice as they were introduced to the fans.
“It was a great feeling to be at the game, to feel the atmosphere, and sit in the stands with the fans,” he enthused.
Matteo feels he’s been drafted by a great organization. “Some great players have come through London — Mitch Marner, Max Domi — and it gives me the opportunity to be coached by a legend in head coach Dale Hunter. To call myself a London Knight is a true honour.”
With 35 points scored in 32 games this season, Matteo knows he showed scouts from across the league what he can bring to an OHL team.
Though the Knights concentrated on size with their first two picks (six foot, one inch, 190-pound forward Stuart Rolofs from Kanata, and six foot, two-inch, 209-pound defenceman Logan Mailloux of Toronto), Giampa should fit in well with their current style of play.
At five feet, 10 inches tall and 146 pounds, he brings a speed and finesse style of play, something the Knights are currently known for.
Matteo knows, though, when the Knights’ training camp rolls around this August, he will have to compete for a spot on their roster. “Both Coach Hunter and his brother, general manager Mark, told me my skills are there. I just have to work on my strength.”
To that end, he plans to concentrate in the offseason on five-day-a-week sessions with a personal trainer, mostly working with weights to build muscle and strength. This will be his second summer without playing lacrosse, a decision he made last year to get ready to be noticed for the OHL draft.
Matteo won’t turn 16 until Sept. 3 this year. When asked about moving away from his family at such a young age, he points to a connection he already has with the city.
“My grandparents live there, so I’ve been to London many times. I know the city, and I really like it there. I don’t know if I’ll get to live with them when I make the team. It all depends on what the team and the coaches want.”
Like many boys his age, Matteo has always dreamed of a career in the National Hockey League. Looking ahead, he can’t wait to show the Knights what he can do in training camp this summer. Whether he ends up in the NHL or not, he’s thrilled to be entering this next step of his career in hockey.