Pascal Dupuis, the Penguins' heartbroken cheerleader

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Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

PITTSBURGH – Injuries limited Pascal Dupuis’ final three seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and over that time he’s become better at one thing: being a cheerleader.

“Well, I’ve got a lot of practice doing it. I’ve been doing it for three years basically,” joked Dupuis to Yahoo! Sports on Sunday during Stanley Cup Final Media Day.

Issues related to blood clots forced the 37-year-old Dupuis to step away from the game for good in December. But despite his career ending, he’s been a constant presence around the team as they marched their way to the Stanley Cup Final.

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Who was the first person to greet Sidney Crosby in the dressing room following his Game 2 overtime goal in the conference final? That was Dupuis.

Who was on the ice after the Penguins celebrated a fifth Prince of Wales Trophy conquest after Game 7? Dupuis was there, too.

No athlete wants to be told that their career is over; they want to say goodbye on their own terms. It’s been nearly six months since doctors told Dupuis he couldn’t play hockey again and the transition hasn’t been an easy.

“When I come to the rink I still think I’m a player, so I change in my gear and my underwear and I hang out with the players,” Dupuis said. “When the game starts I put a suit on. I’ll watch a little bit of video before practices, try to help the coaching staff about details of the game, whatever I see from up there. But deep inside I still think I’m a player, so it’s still kind of hard.”

Dupuis said he’ll be on blood thinners likely for the rest of his life. Right now he’s on a dose that allows him to do everyday things with his wife and kids. While he still feels like a player, unfortunately he can’t be around his teammates on the ice due to new medication and the risk factor of a potential cut.

That hasn’t stopped Dupuis, of course, from remaining a part of this Penguins team, even if it’s in a different role. It might be painful now for him to watch, but he says that’s fine if it results in another Cup for the franchise.

“Just staying around is great, but that’s the hardest part, though, for me, to be around and not to go on,” Dupuis said. “But at the same time I care so much about these guys, about these guys winning, and teammates that I’ve won with to win again, if it means being hurtful for me a little bit to be around and for them to win, I’m definitely willing to do it.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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