Big Night In A Small Town. A Tribute To Gary Lupul

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Powell River, the little semi-isolated town up the coast from Vancouver, boasts a junior team, the Kings, in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and one of the best senior squads in all of Canada, the Regals. It’s serious hockey played in these parts. But on Saturday night, the most important hockey game of the year will be a fun night, a great night, but also a bittersweet night.

Because on this night, the town, players and fans honour Gary Lupul.

Gary Lupul was my friend, as I’ve mentioned here before. We used to have great all-night talks. His mom, who recently passed away, was a lovely lady who oozed class and was the force behind the town getting a new arena. Whenever I see his dad at the mall or on the street, he always has something silly to say that makes me laugh. In fact, I just Vic at the mall a few days ago sitting with a bunch of women his age, and he had them all laughing and giggling.

The Lupul family is a family of warm and funny characters.

Gary began as a huge star in the Western Hockey League with the Victoria Cougars and went on to play 293 games with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring 70 goals and had 145 points. He played against Gretzky, Lemieux, Cheevers and Lafleur, and although slightly small, was a tough cookie who stood up to everyone.

But he had troubles off the ice. Drugs and alcohol ended up shortening his career and although he regretted it, he also probably knew he couldn’t change. He was a fun-loving fellow who drove his coaches crazy but was loved by his teammates, who always speak of him now with a smile on their faces.

Happily, at a time when he really needed a break, he became a scout for the Canucks and was able to stay in the sport he loved. He would phone me sometimes when he was on wintry roads that took him throughout Ontario from rink to rink – Kitchener one night, Huntsville or Ottawa or Cornwall the next, even my old hometown Orillia, and he would tell me about young players he’d just seen, and you could tell he was in his element.

Just over two years ago, on July 17, 2007, while watching television, Gary suffered a heart attack and died, and we mourned and still mourn. He was a great, kind, funny, generous guy who could relate to a street person as easily as he could to a millionaire. He’d been through some hard times, and he kept a special place in his heart for the down-and-out.

Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks alumni are coming to Powell River to take on the Regals alumni made up of players who won three Allan Cups in the past fifteen years, and it should be a fun, entertaining night of great passes, slick plays, and smiling faces.

But it won’t really be about the game on this night. It will be about Gary, our friend, who we miss so much.

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21 thoughts on “Big Night In A Small Town. A Tribute To Gary Lupul”

  1. My condolences to you and all Powell River.
    Sounds like was a good guy and he’ll be missed.
    He was a Canadian hockey player, so he must have been
    O.K. I have heard some stories about he and
    Tiger Williams, in cottage country north of T.O. I know I
    wouldn’t mind hearing one of yours. If you have one.

  2. I have one, Marc. He told me once that it got pretty tiring getting up early in the morning for a Canucks practice with only an hour sleep and having to step over all the people sleeping on his floor after another great party.
    Another – the first time I met him he told about the time he was picked up by the New Westminster Bruins to go to Stockholm for the World Juniors, back when they used club teams and one of the first of these tourneys ever. He said it wasn’t so bad that they’d been eliminated early because the Stockholm nightlife was so great.

  3. The local newspaper interviewed a guy who went through minor hockey with Gary and said there’s a thousand stories he could tell, unfortunately none of them could be printed.

  4. The newspaper guy should have passed them onto you. Internet blogs don’t have such sensitivities. Post away.

  5. My one and only Gary Lupul story occurred back when I used to work at a place on Powell Lake…he was polite, very gracious and happily gave me his autograph to add to a collection my brother had started in the 70′s. May he rest in peace.
    Thanks for the link, Beatnik.

  6. Thanks Jan. Gary was one of the friendliest, nicest guys on the planet. He had his demons but it didn’t stop him from being nice.

  7. Great post Dennis, you always do such a great job when you write about Gary. As nice as this game will be, its really a shame that it took powell river this long to honor the greatest player its ever had. To see some of those regal numbers retired before there was any banner or recognition given to Gary is a sore spot with me. Its sad that he wont be here to see this night that he deserved to have many years ago.

  8. You’re absolutely right, Jordy, about the Regals jerseys being retired and no recognition for Gary. I know something too – Gary also wondered a little in his last few years but of course never said anything.

  9. Jordy and Dennis those Regal players didnt put up their jerseys themselves and I am sure are as proud as ever that they are beside Gary, players do different things and are honored in different ways, players have respect and so should you, the Regals including one number 3 and also Jordy’s grandpa had many influences on many kids and if it werent for those leaders and pioneers and champions we wouldnt be celebrating the success of athletes like Gary, we were honored to honor Gary and the Lupul family

  10. I have all the respect in the world for the Regals and am happy they have jerseys retired. My only point is when I’ve been to rinks around the country, I see the players who made the NHL honoured in their rinks. Gary should’ve been years ago since it’s been so long since he played. That’s all. I suppose I should’ve taken the bull by the horn when |i was writing sports for the News and Peak. I don’t want you to get me wrong on all this. Everybody deserved the honour, I just think Gary should have up a long time ago.

  11. agreed dennis though you imply there is a pecking order and fact of the matter Dennis we should have done it in the early 80 s that said all of those regals in the rafters are in the hockey hall of fame and have made a huge contribution and i know that one of them was a driving force around honoring Gary, with all this its not all about the hockey its about that and many other contributions and deserving so Gary”s legacy lives in the rafters of Powell River, also the 11 X 16 foot picture of Gary is the first maybe you didnt see that

  12. I wasnt implying that those regals numbers shouldnt have been in the rafters but my point is that they didnt deserve to be there before Gary. For example Todd English and Mike Andrews were still playing for the regals in the late 80′s, Gary’s career was over in 86 and his number was retired after both of thiers. They’re accomplishments are something for the people of powell river to be proud of but they dont touch Garys . Im proud that my Grandpa was a Regal but im prouder that my friend Gary Lupul was an NHL’er. Winning Allan Cups and other senior mens titles are definitely something to be proud of but lets face it, its not the NHL. I mean no disrespect to any former Regals but im entitled to my opinion and nobody will change my view on this.

  13. Jordy I think you missed the point and if you read the posts no one is discounting the fact that Gary has great accomplishments he has and is a friend and a mentor to many, the two players you mentioned both played for 20 years for the same team and gave a lot in that facility both on and off the ice, you probably wont see Joe Sakic get his number retired at GM place, nor is Powell River like Vancouver, it was again an honor to be there and we did it whether it got done before or after it got done, again your comments are somewhat disrespecting, I was taught to always respect others and until I have walked in their shoes dont make public opinions, as when you say dont deserve that word is pretty self expanatory you are contradicting yourself

    I myself brag about Gary, Danny Lucas, Micah Aviazoff , Rick Mclaren and many other great players whether they played minor hockey or the NHL they were great,I brag about Roy and Ted gerela and Villa,I brag about the Regals the Kings , Deb Massullo the list goes on, I understand all of their accomolishments and how I am proud of Powell River and how its produced all this. Reward and Regonition is something that is done out of respect hence Gary was first for the Abundance intiative before an Allan Cup team or another athlete, this all said no one is asking you to change your view just trying to enlighten you that no one purposeousally did anything not to have Gary’s banner raised years ago just didnt happen, shame or no shame sometimes it takes someone to be gone to be appreciated that is life

  14. Regal alumni I think you are missing the point what is being said. No one is saying the regal players are not deserving of being there,I dont think anybody is questioning there contributions to hockey in this town It is just too bad that Gary wasnt here to witness his night . Nobodys fault it just was too late. You made reference to Joe Sakic not having a jersey at G.M. Place which he doesnt have one but I Know he has a street named after him leading to Burnaby 8 Rinks and i bet if you were to check Burnaby Winter Club there would probably be something there for him too. I sure there will be more Regals to have there jersey’s hanging from the rafters and deservingly so But i bet i wont happen 24 years from now.It was a great night and people that didnt know Gary were touched by the video tribute.The organizers of the night did a great job.It is just too bad it happened about 22 years too late

  15. canucks fan believe me we get the point 100% that is why we did it and as I mentioned previousally it should have done in the 80;s anyway the first few posts were using undeserving words and i think that is unfair, and if we the regals didnt recognize the fact then it may of took who knows how long, we as a group are all about recognizing and like when possible we make sure we do, we are a small number of passsionate volunteers that make this stuff happen, most of the current volunteers were fairly young back then and like i said it just didnt happen and i never disagreed that it shouldnt have nor a street named after him that would be great, on the \joe sakic issue there has been many players from burnaby that played in the NHL joe did captain 2 Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold, and like i also mentioned we launched one of the most ambitious initiatives that showcased and 11 x 16 foot picture of Gary that will hang in the rink as well, and i guess that Jordy and Dennis posts were about the past and laying blame on why it didnt happen sooner was directed at the Regals and that they shouldnt have done this before that, agreed we always can do better and if someone wanted to make stuff happen they should get involved but dont arm chair quaterback especially when the people whom you are referring to are doing there best, and Jordy believe me that after Gary finished up in Germany and then spirraled down it took almost 15 years and i dont think a tribute like that would have been appropriate and Gary would be the first to admitt that, things always work out and from my perspective it was either in 1989 or sometime over the past 6 to 8 years would have been ideal, we were devestated when he left us in body but honored to have his spirit with us forever

  16. if anybody cares i will tell my best loop story, as my last post, we were coming back from Stony Plain we just lost in the Final Game for the 1999 Allan Cup, Loop was coaching the Regals that year and while in Stony you realized how significant loop was as the Edmonton Journal did stories around loop and his carreer checking wayne gretzky, anyway we had a long last night on an early plane into Vancouver and then on to the school bus to travel home, our ritual was always stop at Giiligans a Regal Alumni pub in sechelt, it was about 1 in the afternoon and gretzsky was playing his final game in ny, we all raced off the bus to watch the last period and there loop was laying down not getting up, i asked loop come on its his last game, loop says, that flippin winer i am not getting up to watch that, if he didnt get 3 points he complained to the ref, loop approached everyone as an equal and i loved that trait as many pro’s cant do that, he was truly a class act.

  17. That’s your best Loop story? I’m assuming you have never had long, heart to heart chats with him, or really got to know the real Gary Lupul. And did it ever occur to you that there may have been several reasons why he didn’t want to go in to Gilligan’s that day?
    One other thing, you don’t mind saying you have a problem with myself and Jordy, but we have no idea who is writing this. Why don’t you just come out and say your name instead of the Regals Alumni thing. Because trust me, when I read your comments, I see silliness in spades.

  18. dennis that was my best loop story that is tellable and in 1999 he was still going into bars and yes i had many long discussions i am done on this anyway like i said we all are agrreable on most gary was great and deserved the honor he recieved

  19. Well said Dennis. Regal Alumni, I wish I could be brave enough to hide under a name on here to make my points, hopefully you have enough of a backbone to approach me in person and have this conversation.

  20. Regal Alumni, the fact that you feel any negative aspect of Gary’s life should be brought up in a discussion about a night meant to honour him, is wrong.
    It is not only in bad taste, but disrespectful!

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