Frank DiChiara: Becoming a Champion

He grew up an only child in Ronkonkoma, New York… a city of around 19,000 people on Long Island.  Even at just three years old he vividly remembers his mom taking him to a local rink to watch his cousin skate.  “Hey Mom, I wanna be like Jakie and do that!” – and thus began the hockey career of Frank DiChiara.

Frank at 5 years old.

Frank at 5 years old.  (Image courtesy of the DiChiara Family)

Even by the time he started school, hockey was already a big part of Frank’s life.  But like most kids, work before play was instilled from the beginning by his parents.  He stated, “I always was a good student, but hockey allowed me to excel both academically and athletically.  My parents always told me that my school work had to be done before I went to hockey practice and that value stuck with me throughout school.”  His father Ernie says, “He loved to smile, and just had a great sense of humor.  He was also a very focused student, and refused to accept that there was anything he couldn’t do.”  Growing up, there were signs above the kitchen doorway and in his room that said “BELIEVE“.  “We always told him to believe he can do anything” and those signs served as reminders.

5 year-old Frank, and his dad Ernie.

5 year-old Frank, and his dad Ernie.  (Image courtesy of the DiChiara Family)

Frank was also quite the catcher in baseball while growing up, a .500 hitter, and could absolutely CRUSH the ball.  Although as he began High School, baseball had to go in lieu of hockey, which is something he says he never regretted, and never will.

Movies like The Sandlot, Goonies, and of course, Mighty Ducks 1, 2, and 3 would keep Frank occupied during the long 8-10 hour car rides traveling for hockey.  According to his dad, Frank has a near photographic memory, and can remember the best lines from all the movies on the road trips.  A huge challenge during his early years playing hockey was actually proving himself on the ice.  The team he played for brought in four or five new players each year that were going to be the top guys, which meant Frank was pushed to the 3rd or 4th line.  Near the end of each season, he had worked hard enough to be in the top six forwards on the team… just in time to have it all repeat the following year.  Being no stranger to hard work, none of that is what Frank recalls as his most difficult obstacle.  “The passing of my Papa Tony when I was about 8 years old was probably the toughest thing I’ve had to overcome.  He, my grandma and my aunt would always come to my hockey and baseball games and they were always there for me.  I was very close with my Papa Tony, and when he passed away it was really hard for me.  However I know he’s watching me, and hopefully he is enjoying watching me become a better person.

Frank batted left, and threw right in baseball.

Frank batted left, and threw right in baseball.  (Image courtesy of the DiChiara family)

When Frank was around 14, he needed to start working in the weight room and working on his foot-speed.  Ernie recalls, “I would ask him every summer if he wanted to leave and go somewhere else, and he always said no.  That first summer in the gym I really saw his drive to succeed and that’s when I knew in my heart he would be something special.  He was always willing to do the extra things.”  He continued by saying “Every other night he would hit 100 pucks off the blacktop driveway at his net, building his arms … and destroying my stockade fence that was behind it.”  One night Frank came inside and asked his dad to tape two pucks to the bottom of the stick shaft.  Seeing the puzzled look on his father’s face, Frank pleaded “DAD that’s what Gretzky’s father did… and then you stick handle in the driveway and you get hands like the Great One!”  Ernie remembered that fondly by saying “My God he loves this game.

Frank finishing a pass.

Frank finishing a pass.

The 2012-2013 hockey season found Frank DiChiara in Dubuque, Iowa, playing for the Fighting Saints in the USHL (United States Hockey League – The top-tier Junior league in the US)… and it was the greatest year of his life.  “From day one back in August we had already gelled and became a tight-knit group.  I have been a part of plenty of other teams, but none compare to this one, and these guys; being with the boys every single day was a blessing.  We all pushed each other on the ice and off, and that’s why we we’re such a great team … we were taught to hold each other accountable for our actions; we did, and it worked.”  He continued, “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to go into battle with, day in and day out, and I am so thankful for everything the Fighting Saints Staff and the people of Dubuque have done for me.  Giving me the opportunity to excel this year and really develop not only as a hockey player but as a young man will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Frank back-checking.

Frank back-checking.

In a regular season that ended with The Fighting Saints setting team and league records for points and wins in a season, Frank had 30 goals and 30 assists, along with 12 more points in 11 playoff games.  None of those games were more significant than the night of May 17th, 2013, in overtime of Game 3 of the Clark Cup Finals (best-of-five).  Taken directly from the script that every child writes for themselves … the biggest moment of their life, standing up to the challenge, and becoming a Champion.  Up two games to none, at 11:33 in overtime, the 6’1″, 220lb #10 Frank DiChiara took the puck from center ice and moved into the offensive zone.  He dropped a pass back to Captain Shane Sooth, who then shuffled the puck back up to DiChiara at the middle of the left circle.  Frank then drove to the front of the net, cut across the crease, and put a backhand shot past the Fargo goaltender for the win… and the Clark Cup.  His father Ernie remembers, “I must have watched that highlight a hundred times, but I knew it was him the second it happened the first time.  I felt numb, but then realized that I was yelling at the the TV!  We told you ‘Just believe’, and Frankie-boy… oh my God you did it!”

Frank recalls the play;  “I took the puck to the net off of a great pass from Sooth and when I saw the red light go on and the puck hit the back of the net I thought ‘wow, we did it!’  … the rest was a blur.  The next thing I remember was my team mates jumping on top of me and then getting up from the bottom of the pile with a bloody nose from everyone.  It was an unbelievable feeling, and one that I will never forget for the rest of my life.  Scoring that goal was surreal.

Teammate AJ Fossen says Frank has a great personality, is always willing to lend a helping hand, and brings a great energy to both the locker room, and the bench.  AJ also says, “As far as a being a hockey player goes, he can do it all; he’s got a Pro shot, he’s strong on his skates, and has great hands.

Frank taking the ice against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

DiChiara taking the ice against the Muskegon Lumberjacks, in the Clark Cup Playoffs… as a fan looks up in awe.

Frank is an unreal teammate… always making everyone laugh, and always has energy – like the Energizer Bunny!  If someone is down, he’s right there trying to help out in any way he can.  He looks at the positives and the bright sides of everything.  Every team needs a guy like Frank.”  Teammate Jarrid Privitera continues, “On the ice, his work ethic stands out, and how he protects the puck down low and drives to the front of the net.

From a scouting standpoint, Joe Kolodziej from The Junior Hockey News speaks highly of Frank’s on-ice abilities:  “He exhibits an old-school player’s mindset – hard wok always pays off, and if you compete harder than everyone else you will win more games.  He reminds me of Johan Franzen (of the Detroit Red Wings).  A big, strong player who is physically dominating when he needs to be, yet he has the skill of a goal scorer.  A player who competes hard at both ends of the ice.  He’s got a ‘no-quit’ attitude, he’s coachable, well spoken, and a natural born leader.  His Clark Cup winning goal is a perfect example of his vision, physical ability and scoring touch.  Frank DiChiara is a player that all young players should emulate on the ice.”  Joe continued, “And off the ice… an incredible person.

Walking to the locker-room after another win.

Walking to the locker-room after another win.

Committed to Yale University, Frank dreams of playing in NHL… and with the 2013 NHL Draft next month at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, that dream is likely to come true.  However, he said “If that doesn’t work out, I hope to have a successful job one day and be able to support my future wife, kids and family so that they can be happy.

It’s no secret that Frank DiChiara is a great hockey player.  He has the drive, skills, and championships to prove it.  At the end of the day though, he’s a great human being… and that’s what matters most.

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4 thoughts on “Frank DiChiara: Becoming a Champion

  1. […] By Jason Kessenich, Contributing Writer Original Story Published on aepoch  […]

  2. John Billee Rapp May 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm Reply

    Frankie is the best!

  3. Mary Farino-Thomas May 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm Reply

    So proud of you Frank!!! I am blessed to know you. <3

  4. Mary Mulholland June 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm Reply

    Saints fans are proud of you Frankie

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