My Friend, Gary Lupul

Several Months ago, my friend Gary Lupul passed away. He was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, and a guy I was close to. The following is my column about Gary published in the Powell River Peak, July 26, 2007.


The last time I saw Gary was about a month ago, and he promised to come over to my house for a barbeque after he got back from seeing his daughter in Vancouver.

Now he won’t be coming. He’s gone, and there’ll be no more stories, no more happy visits, no more of a lot of things from this fantastic, down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky guy. A big hole has entered my life and it’s not going to go away.

Some athletes carry a distant persona long after they’ve retired from the spotlight. Some are almost unapproachable. Many have large egos, stroked from their years in front of cameras. But not Gary. This ex-Canuck connected with everyone, from every walk of life. He’d had his own hard knocks, and you could see in his eyes and voice that he had special feelings, a sort of kinship, for those who’d been through tough times. You could also see he was equally at home at the other end of the spectrum, and so he was everyman.

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When you were with Gary, you saw what his larger-than-life character could do. People couldn’t help but smile when he was around. They laughed because he was a really funny guy. He wanted to know how everyone was doing, from the kids to the job, to all of the family. He was interested in everyone, and it was genuine because he had such a huge heart. He was a hard one to go to a hockey game with because he couldn’t sit still. He was always up and about, saying hello to people, mixing with the crowd, and being his friendly self. I used to just give up wondering where he’d gone and watch the game, knowing he’d come back to his seat eventually.

When Gary was scouting in Ontario, he’d phone me from his car from time to time, telling me where he was, filling me in on some of the young guns he’d seen play, or that he was just passing through my hometown, Orillia, and how nice it was. And he always asked about my health and my life, because he cared and I truly felt this.

I watched him weave his magic around children. I saw all the time how much he loved Powell River. And he was puzzled that my team was the Habs and not the Canucks, who he never stopped loving and who were certainly part of his heart and soul.

Years ago, when I was having my own problems, before I remarried and got things back on track, and Gary had yet to get his scouting job with the Canucks, we would spend nights until dawn sharing our thoughts. They were marathon chats, just letting things out, and it was at these times when we really bonded. It wasn’t long ago, on one of those times when he phoned from Ontario, that we talked about how important those all-night talks were, and how grateful we both were for them.

Gary loved people so much, and he worried that because his personal troubles had cut his career short, he hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations. But in my eyes, and in all his friends’ eyes, he met every expectation. He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. I’m really going to miss him.

 
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