With Dupuis retirement decision, Penguins lose solid teammate, player

By Jeff Carpenter / Staff Writer

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After receiving a diagnosis of a blood clot in his lung last November, causing him to miss the final 66 games of the regular season and five playoff games, Pascal Dupuis vowed that he would return to the game that he has played all his life.

“I’m 35. I know I don’t have much time left. I will get healthy. I will play in the National Hockey League again,” Dupuis said in February.

Such resiliency is no surprise from a professional hockey player. So if anyone is quick to judge Dupuis from stepping away from the game he loves, let’s instead look at what’s made him such a special teammate and player.

After his return to the lineup was delayed six games because of a lower body injury, Dupuis made his long awaited return on Oct. 22 against the Dallas Stars. Then, Nov. 6 happened. While in Edmonton, the team sent Dupuis to the hospital for precautionary reasons, followed by another incident on Dec. 1.

He played 23 games between the last two seasons, and now his 14-year career is at an end.

“It’s easy to say that family comes first. I absolutely love my children and my wife,” Dupuis said. “But the mentality of a professional hockey player is that you never admit that you’re human. You never admit pain, especially if it’s pain that no one can see.”

Amid several recent incidents, Dupuis has decided to step away from the game, emphasizing that his family is “his first priority, and playing with this condition has been a constant worry for all of us.”

But the decision doesn’t come without at least a dose of regret, as Dupuis said he’ll miss particular aspects of the game the most.

“It sounds stupid but ask any hockey player, just the sound of your skate hitting the ice, it gives you chills,” Dupuis said. “And definitely winning, winning is all of it.”

While blood clots on average affect one out of every 1,000 people each year, they are showing up in athletes at increased rates. This results from factors like constant physical contact, immobilization, dehydration and the effect of elevation from all of the flights due to travel.

Notable NHL players who have dealt with blood clots in recent years are Tomas Fleischmann, Kimmo Timonen, Tomas Vokoun and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vokoun retired with the Penguins in 2013 following a similar prognosis.

While Dupuis was an excellent penalty killer and played the game with tremendous energy and combativeness, the complementary winger also had a positive impact within the locker room.

His announcement prompted several teammates, past and present, to voice their favourite stories of Dupuis as well as best wishes. Sidney Crosby choked up in an interview, and Kris Letang voiced his love for Pascal. He’s not alone either, as many fans took to social media to express their gratitude for what “Duper” has done for the franchise.

On Wednesday night, the Penguins took on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, equipped with No. 9 stickers on their helmets. They scored three third period goals to dispatch the Avalanche, 4-2.

While Dupuis’ playing career is essentially finished, it isn’t an official retirement announcement. Instead, the Penguins have chosen to honor the remainder of his contract and place Dupuis on the long term injured reserve. This will free up $3.75 million in cap space, until his deal expires at the end of next year.

Despite the recent rash of injuries and medical misfortunes, Dupuis has remained productive when in the lineup. The rest can not be said for other veteran players throughout the league, who are being phased out by younger players as the game continues to get faster and evolve. One such player that has seen this occur is Philadelphia Flyers center Vincent Lecavalier. The two are natives of Quebec and have each won the Stanley Cup once. Lecavalier is 35.

After being a healthy scratch for 12 straight games and counting, Lecavalier was asked on Wednesday if he has thought about retirement.

“Calling it a career is a personal thing, and it’s not anybody that makes that decision up for you.”

On Tuesday, Pascal Dupuis made his decision, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy one.

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