A year ago today, July 17, 2007, Gary Lupul passed away. He was 48 years old.
Gary Lupul was an ex-Vancouver Canuck, a proud Powell Riverite, a friend to people from all walks of live, and a great friend of mine. He was a scout for the Canucks when he died, and his beat was Ontario and the northern US, and he would phone me from Kitchener or Ottawa or even while driving through my old birthplace, Orillia, just to check in, to ask how I’m doing, and to say all was well with him.
Gary had lived several lives. Along with being a great athlete, he also had personal demons which ended his career prematurely. He told me once that there were times when he’d get a couple of hours sleep after a big party at his house in Vancouver, get up, walk over a bunch of people sleeping on the floor, and go to his Canucks practices.
He was such a colourful character, and it seems like he was just here a few days ago, and now he’s gone forever.
When I heard the news that Gary had died, for a minute or so I thought it had to be another Gary Lupul. It was shocking. It’s still hard to sort out.
He was the friendliness guy I think I’ve ever met. He only wanted to talk about you, never himself. And he was always genuinely interested. And he could be best friends to the most down and out folks, all the way up to the movers and shakers. Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone.
I would just like you to know that Gary was a real hockey player, not just a fringe player. Drugs and alcohol hurt his career and he never really had a chance to show what he could do.
Here’s some examples;
He was a crowd favourite, and the Pacific Coliseum faithful used to chant ‘Loop, Loop, Loop’ thoughout the game. They loved him.
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.
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. All while he did too much partying.
Mario Lemieux’s first fight in the NHL was against Gary.
Gary played for Canada in the 1979 World Juniors in Sweden.
Twice he was picked as a three star selection in an NHL game. And twice he was interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada.
In a game against the Montreal Canadiens during his first season, he scored twice against Bunny Larocque.
And he scored on his first shot in the NHL against Rogie Vachon.
Gary is missed by many people. He was a friend to all.