Tag Archives: Gary Lupul

Scouring The Countryside

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Joe Delguidice was a Montreal Canadiens scout in Northern Ontario from the early 1950s until the mid-sixties.

I wonder if he had anything to do with Kirkland Lake’s Ralph Backstrom joining the Canadiens organization.

$250 wasn’t much, but most of these guys had normal jobs and scoured the area only in the evenings or on weekends. Their honorariums would cover gas, coffee and hot dogs, and yes, they were expected to drive to see hotshots like Backstrom regardless of winter storms and such.

Of course the odd perk would come along, like a free team jacket, or tickets to the Forum, but all in all, I think it was done mostly out of love of hockey.

My friend Gary Lupul was a full-time scout for the Vancouver Canucks, up until his passing almost six years ago, and he would drive from town to town throughout much of Ontario, living on junk food and spending most of his days either on the road or in arenas. He loved it but it wasn’t something he wanted to do for a long time.

It’s not a glamorous job, but an important one. They’re the ones who keep the league stocked.

I can remember when I played bantam and midget hockey, and from time to time we’d hear rumours that scouts were in the stands. Of course this is when I’d play like a bum and could barely stand up.

Gary Lupul

It was July 18, 2007 when Powell River’s Gary Lupul died of a heart attack at just 48 years old. I was shocked. He was a close friend of mine, and he seemed in good shape. It was a horrible time for many people, because Gary was loved by many.

There were those who didn’t love him quite as much as the rest of us though. Gary’s NHL career was cut short, mostly because he had a love for the good life, and there were some in town who felt he didn’t behave himself properly and blew a promising career. Gary heard these things, he felt bad that some felt that way, but que sera sera. He was simply an outgoing and fun-loving guy who was funny, great with kids, had no ego, and the ladies loved him, although some women in Powell River steered clear of him because of rumours of his struggles. That and I guess because he was often broke. It was their loss. He was an excellent fellow who looked like a stronger version of Hollywood actor Rob Lowe.

Below, Gary with the Canucks, fighting for the puck with Gordie Howe, and taking a faceoff against Marcel Dionne.

My Friend The World Junior

I can’t wait for tonight’s Canada-Russia battle. It’s payback time for the Canadians and they have the team to do it.

I was going through some old photos and found my friend Gary Lupul (below), who passed away in 2007 at just 48 years old, and who played in the 1979 World Juniors, when it was still club teams participating. Gary was playing in the Western Hockey League for the Victoria Cougars and was recruited by the New Westminster Bruins for the tournament, held in Sweden.

He showed me his jersey from the tourney one night when we were downstairs at his parents’ house playing pool. It was blue, with white lettering.

Gary would go on to play for the Canucks, but sadly his lifestyle derailed his career. But he made some serious noise as a player. He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him. He scored on his first NHL shot, against Rogie Vachon, and one night in Montreal, Gary beat Bunny Larocque twice in a game against the Habs.

He was a star from the beginning. In minor all-star, he once notched 70 points in 16 games. At 16 he was rookie of the year with the BC Hockey League Nanaimo Clippers. And he racked up 300 points in three years with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

As a Canuck he was a force to be reckoned with in the 1981-82 Stanley Cup finals against the Islanders.

He played a total of 300 games, with 70 goals and 75 assists, and if he would’ve buckled down, it would have been so much more.

Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.

Here’s Gary and myself and some friends, taken about 15 years ago. It looked like we were having a good day. He was a tremendously fun-loving guy, made us all laugh and kept things lively and upbeat, and was a great guy. (Gary’s in black shirt and sunglasses, I’m in white with the goatee.)

1982 Was A Fine Year For The Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks went on a big run in 1982, making it to the Stanley Cup final before being swept in four games by the New York Islanders. My buddy Gary Lupul, who I didn’t know at that time because I was still an easterner then, and who sadly passed away in July of 2007, played in ten playoff games that year for Vancouver, scoring two goals and adding three assists.

What a great guy Lupe was.

The 1982 Canucks playoff run also saw Vancouver coach Roger Neilson waving a white towel in mock surrender during a game he wasn’t happy about, which led to the towel craze we see in rinks around the league now.

Below, 1982 Canuck thrills and spills.

Max And Chara Talk, And PK Annoys

I see that Zdeno Chara has had a chat with Max Pacioretty sometime recently and that’s good. If Chara spoke from his heart, saying he worried for Max and never wanted to hurt but simply erase him from the play, then that’s excellent.

Of course, it isn’t good if Chara warned Max to never, ever push him again after scoring an overtime goal.

Maybe now Mark Recchi will step forward and say he was out of line for saying Max embellished his injury. Or is the former Hab still having trouble removing his foot from his mouth?

Elliotte Friedman on rookie of the year -  He chooses Jeff Skinner, but also had this to say -

“You know who is not getting enough respect? John Carlson.
He led all rookies in ice time, both for the season and per game. He was six points behind Kevin Shattenkirk, who led diaper-dandy defencemen in scoring. Carlson and Karl Alzner became the shutdown pair on a team that changed its system at Christmas and charged at the end to win the East. That’s pretty good.

P.K. Subban’s chances are hurt because he annoys people. That’s unfortunate, because he had a major impact on a decimated blue-line. But Carlson had a better year.”

Carlson had a better year? He had 7 goals and 30 assists for 37 points, plus 44 PIM’s. PK notched 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points and 124 PIM’s. The Canadiens relied heavily on PK after losing Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges for the season and Jaroslav Spacek for 23 games. PK is such an impact player that the Bruins will be concentrating hard on him as he can be a game-breaker.

And he annoys people? What does that have to do with anything? If Bobby Orr had annoyed some, does that mean he wouldn’t have won all those Norris’? It’s about skill, impact, importance to team, points and other intangibles. It shouldn’t be about whether PK annoys some players or not.

Am I wrong or was Friedman’s statement one of the sillier things you’ve seen lately? Hall of Famers and others throughout the decades annoyed other players too.

Wayne Gretzky used to tell Gary Lupul he was useless and didn’t belong in the league. Gretzky was a known trash-talker and that annoyed others I’m sure. Alexander Mogilny, after being asked by his Vancouver Canucks’ coach (who I won’t name) to do more backchecking, replied, “And how much money do YOU make?’ To me, that’s also pretty annoying.

Ted Lindsay would call Rocket Richard every hateful and racist name he could think of. That must have been tremendously annoying.

But PK’s a rookie and is supposed to behave. The unwritten rule is that you can’t be annoying until you’ve been around a few years. Too bad.

 

It’s A Fine Day Today. A Fine Day Indeed

It’s amazing how a little plan comes together, as if the stars and planets aligned and the hockey gods put their touch on this poor soul who wanted to do something but didn’t think it was in the cards. 

On and around February 22, some unexpected days off at work will occur. On this day my wife and I will be delivering a computer to my daughter-in-law in Vancouver. And on this day the Montreal Canadiens just happen to be in town to play the Canucks.

Hmm. 

I was absolutely resigned to watching the Canadiens on television. I figured I’d be working. I thought not a ticket would be found except possibly the odd nosebleed type. And I figured I’d be way up the coast in Powell River anyway. 

I was wrong. I’ll be in Vancouver and so will the Habs. Again – hmm. 

How could I be in Vancouver and not go to the game? Montreal only comes once a year and sometimes not at all. So I put to work my remaining brain cells, the ones which escaped the sixties, and now, I’m more than happy and proud to announce that - WE’RE GOING TO THE FREAKING GAME!!!

Without first having a ticket for this sold-out affair, one of the hottest dates of the year, I went ahead and booked a hotel room just across the street from Rogers Arena. That was step one. Then I spent several hours on the computer checking ticket outlets and ebay, but there was no guarantee, even if I found a pair I liked, that they would reach my home by mail in time.

But I was going to be in Vancouver, had the hotel room across the street, and if I had to talk to scalpers, it’s what I was going to do. I told myself I’d just work an extra week at the end when I’m retiring.

But then I tried Craigslist and found some great deals on tickets for this big night and dutifully recorded about 20 different sellers with good seats. I’m an impatient sort, and when I didn’t hear back on email from the guy with seats at dead centre, lower bowl, eleven rows up, I went to plan B, which meant finding a seller with a phone number.

And I did. I got hold of a woman with a pair of tickets, who lives and works downtown, so picking them up will be easy, and we made the deal over the phone. I’m crazy with excitement. We’re 8 rows up, behind the net and slightly off to the right before it reaches the corner. I’ve sat in seats like these before in Toronto and at the Forum, and it’s a splendid view. I love watching the rush coming towards me, seeing how hard the shots on net really are, and the way plays are set up as the team works it way toward the other end while the other prepares a defence to the attack.

And the tickets are only slightly more than face value.

Damn, this is fine. I should buy some champagne. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

So either the night before or early the morning of the game, my wife and I will drive for half an hour, ride a ferry for an hour, drive another hour and and a half, ride another ferry, arrive at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, drive for half an hour to downtown, pick up our tickets, and then I’ll look upwards and thank the hockey gods for making this all come together.

I haven’t seen the Canadiens play since 1998 when they were in Vancouver , and my seats were up in the clouds and two guys with big heads blocked much of my view. Montreal also lost that night. My buddy Gary Lupul, who once played for the Canucks and then became a scout, promised me he’d take me down for a game and we’d sit in a box, but Gary died before we had a chance to do this. Before 1998, I saw them play a few times in Calgary during the Patrick Roy years. The games in Montreal for the decades before now feel as if they’ve become centuries.

I’m like a little kid right now. It’s Christmas morning. Several birthdays. That night Sophia Loren called me. (I made that up).

If you’re watching the game on February 22nd from Vancouver and see a couple in the stands just over from behind the net and the guy with a blue Habs hat has a huge and silly smile on his face, that’ll be me.

This is a good day. I’m going out to celebrate.

It’s My Blood Pressure And I’ll Let It Rise If I Want To

Why am I in a lousy mood on this Saturday in the middle of winter when I have a day off and I get to go to the Gary Lupul tribute game at the rink tonight and eat popcorn? Is it because the Habs lost 3-2 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators? Yep, that’s one reason.

Is it because I’m tired of writing about the team losing? You bet I am.

Is it because the Habs have lost 9 of their last 13 games? See above question.

Is it because it looks like Mike Cammalleri has done serious damage to his foot or ankle? Yep, another.

Is it because Jason Spezza walked around Hal Gill and Marc-Andre Bergeron like they were statues? Of course.

Is it because I hate Carrie Underwood’s singing and her boyfriend Mike Fisher won it for the Sens in overtime? Again, ditto.

So, because I’m in a nasty mood, I think I’ll just let off steam if you don’t mind. And who will I pick on? People who have remained quiet, thankfully, but who deserve to be picked on anyway.

Question to the mindless, low I.Q., classless freaks who in the past have torched cars, overturned police cruisers, and looted stores in downtown Montreal after the team has won a playoff series. Why would you do all that when the Canadiens win and but you now remain quiet like Tibetan monks when the team is losing on an almost nightly basis?

Not that you should be doing it at anytime but I’m curious.

I also wonder how you’ve managed to stay alive all your years without walking in front of a bus or diving off the Jacques Cartier bridge because you were hot and wanted to cool off. I just question your reasons and timing. You don’t even know when to riot.

Now repeat after me – “I-get-angry-when-the-team-is-doing-poorly-not-when-they-win-a-playoff-series.

Got that?

Now go and stand in front of a bus. Or brush your tooth. Or brush your mother’s tooth.

You guys make the Trailer Park Boys look like a collection of Einsteins.

Random Notes:

Habs host the Canucks on Tuesday. I have nothing to say about this other than the Habs host the Canucks on Tuesday.


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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A Beautiful Hockey Mom Gone But Never Forgotten

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Nearly two years ago, ex-Vancouver Canuck and great friend to many, Powell River’s Gary Lupul, passed away. It was very difficult for the family of course, but his mom and dad and sisters and brothers carried on, and whenever I’d see any of them around town, they’d  have a smile on their face and a warm greeting.

Now, this week, Gary’s mom Jean has lost her long battle with cancer that she had fought with dignity, courage, and humour. The disease had went away but came back, but she still smiled and still wanted to know how everyone around her was. Gary developed this wonderful trait also. It was always about everyone else, never about themselves.

Jean Lupul was a beautiful 76 year old woman who always smiled, always wore nice, stylish clothes, and was in great shape because she went on long walks every day of her life. Gary would tell her I was coming for dinner and she would have a big plate put out for me, welcome me, and want to know how everything in my life was going. And she was wonderful around little kids, just as Gary was. 

She loved to travel, and it was only recently she saw New York with her daughters. In fact, almost every year she’d go to some part of the world and come back with tales to tell around the kitchen table.

Jean was a kind, classy, well-spoken woman who leaves behind her husband Vic, three children and six grandchildren. It must be so difficult for the Lupuls to first lose Gary, and now this loving matriarch. But they have a whole town to help them through this.

I hadn’t even heard she had gone until I read it in the paper. Now I have a big lump in my throat that won’t go away.

 

These are photos of Gary Lupul battling with Gordie Howe, and taking a faceoff with Marcel Dionne.

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