PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – This is award season in the NHL and one of the bigger ones is the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
It's awarded to the player who best embodies sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance to the game of hockey.
Those three words could all be Pascal Dupuis' middle name, which is why he is the Pittsburgh Penguins' representative for the award.
"Definitely being nominated for that award, it showed that I did do all the sacrifices and I was recognized by people around me that I did try to come back hard," Dupuis said.
Dupuis is at the rink every day. Instead of being on the ice, he spends game game day up in the press box – watching, not playing.
"He loves hockey in every sense of the word and I think it's contagious, it's infectious and we love having him around and we love having him as part of our coaching staff right now because of that. Because of how he influences our group in such a positive way and for me, it's a testament to his character as a person and how much he loves this game," Sullivan said.
UNCUT VIDEO: Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan:
While the respect his teammates has for him is obvious, it's still tough for Dupuis to not be on the ice battling with them every night.
"I think the hardest part right now is to come to the rink. Even though I want to be here, I want to be part of it, I want to be around the guys, I want to try to help a little bit. The toughest part for me is definitely to come here and see the guys I played with only three months ago, putting their equipment on and sharing something – sharing victories, sharing losses," Dupuis said.
Those moments are gone after Dupuis overcame two bouts with dangerous blood clots that traveled from his surgically repaired knee to his lungs. But, those clots did something that nobody could – they took him out of the lineup.
However, he never gave up on a comeback from something that most would never even attempt.
"That was the hardest part. If I did get hurt, if I did block a shot, I'd have to go get checked, I'd have to go get a scan. That was the hardest part for me to get involved with. It's all the radiation around those tests that obviously, you're not supposed to go through that 8, 9, 10, 12 times in a month," Dupuis said.
UNCUT VIDEO: Pascal Dupuis 1-On-1:
It was his passion that drove him to come back, to work as hard as he did every morning at 5 a.m., to go through the many medical procedures he had to undergo in order to once again play the game he loves.
Dupuis: Definitely the love of the game. The proud person in me, the guy that's been told many times that, "You're not good enough." Prove people wrong - I think that's the mentality I have and that's what drove me to come back again this time.
KDKA-TV's Bob Pompeani: You are a very emotional person and you play with emotion. Did you ever cry through this process?
Dupuis: Many times, many times. Still do.
Pompeani: Is it safe to say if you didn't have a wife and four great kids, you would still try to play?
Dupuis: I would still be playing. I think so. That would have been the selfish way to do it definitely, but no wife, no kids – obviously, mom and dad and my brother would have been really mad at me…But, still to this day, the thought of me coming back is still in the back in my head. Even though I know if I say something, my wife would definitely kill me before I make it back on the ice.
His wife and kids were there earlier this year when the Penguins and their fans saluted Dupuis with a video tribute for what he means to this team and this town.
"As far as getting an ovation like that and my family being there beside me, it's definitely untouchable. All of them had that – I know my kids. They were all smiling, my wife had a hard time holding it in, they were all smiling, but they were all smiles for the cameras. As soon as the Zamboni door went down behind us, we all obviously lost it then. It was a hard one for the family," Dupuis said.
The tribute and ovation were well deserved and speak to the love Pittsburgh fans have for "Duper."
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