Penguins History: Duane Rupp – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins History: Duane Rupp

Next to Ron Stackhouse, perhaps no Penguin was less appreciated in his time than defenseman Duane Rupp. Ironically, the fans’ dissatisfaction stemmed from a similar cause. Like Stackhouse, Rupp was a big player for his day (6’1” 195) who didn’t fit the mold of a stay-at-home bruiser.

A product of the “Original Six” era, Rupp became New York Rangers property after winning the Memorial Cup as a member of the Flin Flon Bombers. Known for his huge hands—and slowness afoot—the MacNutt, Saskatchewan native focused on his defensive chores at first. However, as his confidence grew Duane displayed a genuine flair for offense, tallying 117 points over a three-year span with the Rochester Americans while earning All-Star honors.

Following a trade to Toronto during the summer of 1964, Rupp made several cameo appearances with the Maple Leafs. He has vivid memories of skating against players like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, and Jean Beliveau.

“You were in awe when you stepped on the ice with them,” he told Penguin Profiles author Jim O’Brien. “They were legends, and playing with guys like that was, well, like a dream come true.”

Thanks to the 1967 expansion, a full-time spot opened for Rupp on Toronto’s blue line. Seizing the opportunity, the 29-year-old rookie enjoyed a solid first season with the Maple Leafs (plus-16). After being claimed by Minnesota in the Intra-League Draft, the big defender joined the Penguins on January 24, 1969, in a deal for future Hall-of-Famer Leo Boivin.

Rupp performed ably upon his arrival, recording 13 points in 30 games. In 1969-70 he took a regular turn on defense and helped the Pens to a second-place finish in the West Division. During the playoffs that spring he led the club’s blue-liners with two goals and two assists.

The following season was arguably Rupp’s best in the Steel City. Given an expanded role by coach Red Kelly—including plenty of power-play duty—Duane registered five goals and 33 points (in 59 games) while firing off a career-high 152 shots. On March 24, 1971, he became the first defenseman in team history to score a hat trick.

Unfortunately, the improvement wasn’t enough to suit Penguins fans. A favored target of the Civic Arena boo-birds due to his easy-going nature, Rupp endured his share of catcalls. A popular bed-sheet banner of the day read, “RILEY AND RUPP AND NO STANLEY CUP.”

Much to Duane’s credit, the rough treatment never affected his play on the ice. Nor did it dissuade him from making Pittsburgh his home. During the early 1970s he opened Rupp’s Sporting Goods in suburban Mt. Lebanon.

“All we carried was hockey equipment,” he recalled. “On our signs, we had hockey sticks in place of the ‘p’s’ in my name. It started off very well.”

The same could not be said for his career. When the Penguins broke training camp in 1971, Rupp was surprised to learn he’d been sent to Hershey of the AHL. After earning a call-up at midseason, the mustachioed defender tallied a typically productive 22 points in 34 games (a 50-point pace over a full season) to help fuel a second-half surge.

Reestablished as a bona fide big-leaguer, Duane finally proved his mettle to the local fans on February 10, 1973, when he challenged Bruins scoring ace Phil Esposito during a nationally televised game at Boston Garden. Following a brief skirmish he dropped “Espo” with a right to ignite a wild five-on-five donnybrook.

Seeking to overhaul his aging defense, Penguins GM Jack Riley shipped the 35 year old back to Hershey for the 1973-74 season. Rupp departed as the Penguins’ all-time leading scorer among defensemen (104 points), a distinction he held until Stackhouse, ironically, surpassed him.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
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  1. Bill McBratney's Gravatar Bill McBratney
    March 5, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I was raises in FF and watched alot of really excellent hockey as a kid. Duane was a stereotypical Defenceman of the day. Tough and a playmaker. I am still a huge fan watching ,my Canucks now from and every bit as exciting as watching the Bombers. I am curious to know is Duane related to Mike Rupp of The Minnesota Wild ( recently from the Rangers), They sure look and play alike!

    • Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
      March 18, 2014 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Have had the distinct pleasure of playing golf with Mr. Rupp over the past two years. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Has a beautiful draw on his drives and shoots consistently in the low 40’s. Loves to talk about the Pens and hockey in general

  2. seattleseth's Gravatar seattleseth
    April 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    When I was in college in the early ’90s, I was a dishwasher at a restaurant that Dwane Rupp managed. I was home for the summer washing dishes and the Pens won the cup that June while I was working there. He was super excited during the whole thing and never really made it known he once played for the Pens. Someone told me at the restaurant but it seemed so crazy, I never thought it was true. Class act and always super nice.

  3. Hyejin's Gravatar Hyejin
    February 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    I love tofu. Your bean srpuots look so fresh and lovely. In my city, they are sold in bulk and always have brown tinges.


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