One of the loudest, longest and more emotional ovations in recent memory at a Pittsburgh Penguins game was reserved for a player no longer in uniform.
A teary-eyed Pascal Dupuis, who retired on Dec. 8 due to blood clot issues, stood rinkside at Consol Energy Center on Monday night with his wife Carole Lyne and four children, Maeva, Zoe, Lola and Kody, while being honoured with a video tribute during a stop in play.
On this night, Pittsburgh, which dropped a 4-1 decision to the visiting Washington Capitals in Mike Sullivan's debut as Penguins head coach, could have used Dupuis, who had two goals and four points this season in 18 games after missing much of last year after blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
"That's the tougher part, feeling like you're letting your teammates down by not keeping going," Dupuis, a native of Laval, Que., told Pittsburgh media earlier on Monday. "Talking to everybody, everybody was telling me I made the right decision."
One of the more popular players in the Pittsburgh dressing room, the 36-year-old Dupuis finished his 15-year career with 190 goals and 219 assists in 871 regular-season games with Minnesota, Atlanta, New York Rangers and the Penguins, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2009.
Dupuis, who broke into the NHL in the 2000-01 season with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent, played only 16 games last season and was on blood thinners for six months but continued to work his way back to the lineup.
He endured a series of small setbacks, including leaving a game versus San Jose earlier this month with chest pain, and soon realized the series of tests each time something popped up was becoming more troubling.
Dupuis, who was beloved by the Penguins media for his cooperation and character, also left the podium Monday afternoon to a thunderous ovation.