I’m an avid watcher of hockey and I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog player. The person who had to essentially work hard to get the recognition some of the big time players get. As a hockey fan, I’ve seen this numerous times. They’re the kind of guys I’d love for little scrappers in the pee wee leagues to take notes on. Some have amazing talent and others work hard to achieve greatness.
In 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded to get Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis. One was someone they thought would lead the team to a Stanley Cup and the other was one traded away because his production wasn’t up to snuff. Hint on who the savior was? Hint: Not Dupuis. In fact, Dupuis wasn’t even drafted into the NHL. He had to fight, kick, and claw to make it to the big leagues in 2000. Injuries plagued him and he got tossed around to other teams before landing in Pittsburgh. Not that he didn’t show flashes a brilliance.
Now flashback to 2008 and that trade. The Penguins made it to the finals against the Detroit Red Wings. They lost the Cup in game six, a game I attended. Sorry, no pictures. My camera was broken and my cell phone? Hah! Not the quality for pics, sadly. I didn’t stay for the ceremony. The next year Marian Hossa was gone–wanting way too much money than he was worth, IMO. So Hossa left, and lost the Cup to Pittsburgh while playing for the Red Wings in 2009. At that time in 2008 my favorite scrapper player was Ryan Malone. He signed elsewhere too because the Penguins were so intent on keeping Hossa. Kinda of like the forest for the trees, IMO. Malone’s jersey is hanging in my closet along with the other scrapper I adored–Max Talbot. The same Talbot that scored the game winning goal. Not the super stars on the teams–Crosby, Malkin, and Staal. That’s why I love the scrappers. No one gives them any attention on the ice until it’s too late.
So Max Talbot did the unthinkable in 2011–he asked for more money than his current worth on the team was, and what made him magical on the ice had waned though he was my favorite. Where’d he end up? The stinking Flyers. He was dead to me. DEAD! At 31 years of age, he’s playing in the minor leagues now. I haven’t worn his jersey since the Winter Classic in 2011.
Face it. No matter how many changes happen, there’s always that one player. Hell, even Craig Adams and Matt Cooke had their charms. However, the most magical line on the ice for me was Dupuis-Crosby-Kunitz. When they hit the ice, goals happen. While I love to say Crosby could go out there with two orange cones and score, his wingers showed the world how he’s not aiming to score all the goals. He has a sick pass that few could handle.
Dupuis was one of those guys. He had a amazing speed and if you messed up during a power play, he was there to make you pay on the penalty kill. The part that made him my favorite to watch? His heart. His smile, much like Fleury, just had you grinning too. When I taught hockey to the little ones just starting out I always stressed fun because if that didn’t happen, it was too much like work.
In December of 2013, Dupuis got injured in a freak accident and was out for the year. The previous season he’d lit up the ice having a stellar year in stats. When his production didn’t measure to some fans, the whininess I witnessed on the interwebs was amusing. I saw the little stuff a scrapper does. It’s not about points but making that play to stop a goal or set it up for someone else to get the glory. Let’s just say when he went out with his injury, I noticed that things were off. Games were lost that should have been won. His value? If you don’t see it there, you never will.
Fun memories? How about Dupers getting a stick in the face from Kris Letang, went to the bench and PULLED OUT HIS OWN TOOTH! Don’t watch the video if your squeamish.
I mean, holy crap! He was tough as nails and played through pain and that, in itself, was his downfall. He ignored the pain until he was told to go to the hospital and have someone drive him. Nope. He drove himself and that’s when he found out about blood clots. That condition is very serious, and if you ever watched hockey, there’s always a chance blood will be spilled by accident or on purpose. When diagnosed with a blood clot, thinners are used to clear the blockage. Otherwise, one could break free and enter the heart and BOOM! Most likely you’re dead. Playing just got extremely dangerous. Still, he wanted to go and did all he could to hit the ice again.
I waited patiently for Dupuis to return, my jersey at the ready but alas he wasn’t there for the first game of this season. He’s 36 years old and that’s getting up there for a hockey but Pascal stayed in excellent shape. In a turn of events, he had somewhat of an epiphany, one that I could get behind. He hid a lot from his family regarding how many times he played when he should have been medically checked out. His mental toughness in being a scrapper and having to fight for everything he clouded his judgment. However, what good would it do if he checked out and left his wonderful family behind?
In my mind, he has nothing to be ashamed of in his career. He might have been traded to Pittsburgh as a second thought but he proved to the organization and the fans he was nothing of the sort. I hope that he gets to coach in some capacity because he is an inspiration.
So thank you, Dupers, for the awesome years. I’m not one to get just any jersey and yours I’ll cherish forever. I can’t afford to get to many games, but I’m glad I got to see you on that glittering sheet of frozen gold.