There are a lot of things you probably don’t know about Dylan Di Perna.
One is that the guy enjoys to cook, and he’s pretty good at it, too. His favourite meal to make? Ham and cheese omelets.
The one thing many fans do know is that he’s generally a pretty quiet, laid-back guy, hence the fact that fans just don’t know that much about him. Emotions, reactions, opinions; he keeps those things pretty tight to the vest.
Another thing you may not know about him is that he is an exceptional speaker. When his strong-but-silent demeanor gives way to a genuine conversation about anything, he delivers his message very poignantly, yet purposefully. When he does speak, you listen.
But the Rangers coaching staff and his teammates all know this about him. And that’s what makes Dylan Di Perna one of the pivotal leaders on this Kitchener Rangers hockey club.
“It definitely means a lot to me,” said the veteran Di Perna on being asked what it means to him knowing he’s looked up to as a 20-year-old on the team. “When I was a young player I looked up to a lot of teammates for guidance and to show me the ropes of how to be successful in this league. Now I’m one of the older guys and have younger players looking up to me. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.
“I appreciate that guys feel they can come up to me and ask me questions and learn from me. I can share advice or experiences I’ve learned and gone through as a player, and just try to help them out with the process of adjusting to the game as much as possible.”
Now in his overage year, Di Perna has a wealth of experience to lean on, skating in what is his fifth and final Ontario Hockey League season. Those experiences include parts of four seasons in Kitchener, and prior to that, getting his feet wet in the league after being drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the second round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection.
He’s skated with plenty of teammates over the years, and tried to learn something from them all. When asked what might be the most important thing he’s learned, he answers without hesitation.
“The biggest thing for me was learning not to waste a day,” he says with conviction. “Not to waste a practice. To take advantage of every moment and all the resources we’re given. This league is meant to help you succeed and achieve your goals, but if you’re not doing your part you’re selling yourself short.
“Especially being here in Kitchener, and it being the great organization that it is. I’ve been able to play for the many different coaches and different captains, and I’ve been able to learn from their personalities. I try to take a little bit from each of them.”
It’s one thing to hear a player talk the way he does, but Di Perna follows his words up with actions. It’s commonplace to see him be the first one on the ice at practice and the last one off, treating every drill with the utmost importance knowing it could make all the difference during a pivotal moment in a game.
He aims to put himself in the best position to achieve what his sights are set on, although he’s not necessarily a goal-driven person in respect to points on a score sheet.
“I think goals are more factual things,” he says. “Certain stats, certain number of goals, number of points; to me that’s a goal. I think expectation is more so what I hold myself accountable for everyday.
“When I come to the rink, I expect myself to be 15 minutes early. I expect myself to do the little things right. I expect myself to eat right. Those are expectations I have of myself every day, and if I can achieve that every day and keep those good habits the same and whole, I should translate that into on-ice success and achieve what I’ve set out to do in my mind.”
As his junior career winds down, he’d love nothing more than to cap it off with a championship for his teammates, coaches and the fans. Regardless of how this season ends though, he hopes the fans remember him as the type of player he feels he is.
“I never want to be classified as one particular type of player,” says Di Perna. “To be labeled as just an ‘offensive defenceman’, or a ‘defensive defenceman’. I want people to remember me as a guy that would do whatever was asked of me. Whether it’s throw a hit, shut down the opposing team’s top line, skate with the puck, score a goal here or there, whatever it may be.
“I hope that’s the impression I leave behind when my time here comes to an end.”