By Brian Metzer
It is hard to believe but this is my 10th season as a credentialed media member covering the National Hockey League and Pittsburgh Penguins. Over that time I have crossed paths with lots of current and retired players and all of them bring something unique to the table.
Some of them are polite and some of them aren’t. Some are serious and some are funny. Some are full of clichés and some speak from the heart. Some can make a scrum of reporters shutter with a look and some can make that same group fall into a circle of belly laughs with a smirk.
In my experience Pascal Dupuis was a little bit of all of those things and that is something that no other player in the league can say.
He might go down in history as the best trade “throw-in” ever. I say that tongue-in-cheek because I am sure Ray Shero knew what was getting when he asked for Dupuis to be included in Marian Hossa deal in 2008. He might not yet have been the same player that eventually combined with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz to form one of the best lines in hockey, but he was always Duper.
What I mean is that he was a great teammate and a great man. The kind that is easy to follow and the kind that is easy to root for.
He played the game with an energy that is absent in the games of many players. He always had an extra gear and there was nothing like watching him celebrate a goal.
His emotion in those situations was enough to get even the most casual observer fired up.
That is what made it hard to hear the news on Tuesday afternoon that the 36-year-old would no longer be able to take the ice as an active NHL player.
Dupuis fought hard to get through a significant knee injury and then two different bouts with blood clouting issues. He bit, clawed and scratched his way through a training regimen that saw him skating on his own for large chunks of time and culminated with a return to action during training camp this fall.
He was able to make it through 18 games – not without issue I should add – but 18 more than he had when all of this began. That alone is a testament to the kind of individual we’re talking about.
Dupuis is and has always been one of the hardest working players on the roster. He has also been one of the most positive and upbeat. All of those things helped him get back, albeit for far less time that he had hoped.
I have had countless interactions with the man, but have not been able to develop a real relationship based on the fact that I simply don’t get to spend enough time around him. While I do spend countless hours covering the Penguins during the season, I am forced to miss many practice sessions due to a day job that is needed to pay my bills.
That fact has never kept Dupuis from treating me like gold – something he does for everyone.
Sure, there are times where he’s answered with a bite to his tone following a bad game from the team or a bad question from the interviewer – sorry about that – but he’s never been anything less than professional.
Dupuis has taken the time to follow me on twitter and responded to direct messages that I have sent him. He has made me laugh regularly and has always been someone that has brought a smile to my face.
That is probably because it is a rare occasion that he doesn’t have one on his own and that was the case even through the bad times. Through all of the training and workouts and treatments to regulate his blood clotting issues.
All of the above is why Dupuis will be missed more than the average player who is knocked out of action. His one-ice contributions might not have been what they once were, but his intangibles will not easily be replaced.
Finding a way to offset even a portion of the impact that he had in the locker room is a task that I do not envy Jim Rutherford for having to accomplish.
The good news is that Dupuis is still on the payroll and will be through next season. That gives the Penguins and Rutherford the opportunity to utilize him in some capacity. Could he help the coaching staff? Maybe. Could he be an eye in the sky? Sure. He may slide into some kind of front office position, but my hope is that he’ll consider sliding into some kind of media role with the team.
That is the one that I am selfishly pulling for because it would allow me a chance to work with this wonderful human in a way that I have not been able to do so before.
Thank you, Pascal Dupuis, for all you did for the logo to this point and all that you still might do.