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Devils Q&A with Mike Rupp

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

Rupp, a prankster in the Devils locker room, takes no responsibility for cutting Brian Gionta's shoelaces. – Courtesy of his towering 6-5 frame, Mike Rupp has heard every nickname from "Sasquatch" to "Harry," a reference to the Bigfoot character from 90s sitcom "Harry and the Hendersons."

View Mike Rupp highlights
But nothing in Rupp's five NHL seasons can compare to hearing the sound of a raucous Meadowlands Arena for Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored the goal that clinched New Jersey's third title.

The Cleveland native was selected with the Devils' seventh choice in the 2000 Entry Draft and made 26 regular season appearances with New Jersey in 2002-03. His lone tally of the '03 postseason put the Devils past Anaheim with the championship on the line.

A veteran of 217 games as a Devil, Rupp recently participated in Devils Q&A by taking the time to answer questions submitted by the fans.

After you had worked your tail off for the opportunity to play for the Devils, what was the feeling of scoring the Cup-clinching goal in 2003?

Belle Harbor, N.Y.

Rupp: It was awesome just for what it was: being able to play in the Stanley Cup Finals in my first year. But to be able to be a part of it and come up through the organization made me feel indebted to the Devils. All you ask for is an opportunity, which they gave me that regular season, then again in the Finals. Coming up through the system made it extra special, and it was a great experience.

I had some great coaching in Albany (AHL) and someone who helped me get to where I needed to be was [former River Rats head coach] Red Gendron. There's a certain style of play that's expected from a guy that's 6-5. I grew up playing a skilled game, and I had to get a physical element into my game. He challenged me to do that and really helped me.

Who or what inspired you to play hockey when you were young?

Cape Coral, Fla.

I was a big Wayne Gretzky fan, but growing up in Cleveland I didn't really have a team to root for. I was kind of a Penguins fan, but casually. I kind of just latched on to the greatness that Gretzky was showing every year, and got caught up in that. I used to have the video 'Gretzky: Above and Beyond,' and I watched that just about every day when I was a kid, so that was pretty inspiring for me.

What training do you focus on most during the offseason?

Ringoes, N.J.

I've been focusing more on my stamina. I think that helps me quite a bit, and I don't lift a bunch of weights all summer. I've been doing a lot more high-repetition workouts that help me with that.

What do you think of having another physical guy on the team like Bobby Holik. What can that bring to your game?

Sayreville, N.J .

MR: I think it's great having Bobby here. Since junior hockey, I've found you can crash and bang on a line when your linemates feed off each other's energy. An example of that was the line with myself, David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus down the stretch last year. You know what the other guy's thinking and what he's going to do, and there's always going to be loose pucks from guys taking the body, so I would expect the same thing from Bobby.

What nicknames have you picked up during your hockey career?

Green Brook, N.J.

MR: I've always had 'Rupper,' but 'Sasquatch' was another one. I've gotten 'Harry' from 'Harry and the Hendersons,' which is one that I tried to shed. Then there's the guy from the Jack Link's Beef Jerky commercial... I picked that one up too, thanks to John Madden.

You helped tremendously with the Jason Baird Benefit for your former teammate, even though you hadn't talked to him in years. Your bond as teammates was obviously important, but is there anything that you learned when you were with the Erie Otters (OHL) that still stays with you today?

Belle Mead, N.J.

MR: I learned about the way successful hockey teams are made up. The bottom line is that everyone sticks together. That's something special in the game of hockey, whether it's sticking up for a teammate after a dirty check or supporting a teammate off the ice. You learn that at the junior level, and build on it more and more as you grow up.

Jason Baird was a member of the Erie Otters from 1997-2001 and suffered severe burns to more than 60 percent of his body in a landscaping accident this past July. A benefit was held last month for the 27-year-old Ontario native, who is receiving treatment at the Akron (Ohio) Burn Center.  

What do you like to do during summer breaks, and how do you keep in shape before the new season?

Bayville, N.J.

I try not to get out of shape and make sure to do something every day up until maybe mid-June. From then on out, it's a pretty hectic schedule with training, and everything kicks in. You begin training more for the season.

What was your best single day this summer?

Stockton, N.J.

One of the best times we had was just after the season, we took the kids to Disney World, and they're at a fun age where they get all pumped up over seeing that stuff. Being at Disney World until midnight every night was fun.

You once said you watched CBS' "Big Brother." Who do you want to win "Big Brother 10"?

Ridgefield, N.J.

MR: I'm going to have to say Dan. He was America's player, so he had to deal with some decisions that weren't his. He's been a big target and he somehow deflects all that so someone else gets burned every week.

Rupp thumps New York's Colton Orr.
How old were you when you got in your first scrap? How did you make out?

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

My first real fight was in the OHL my rookie year. I fought an overager, and he asked me after a whistle if I wanted to go. So I dropped my gloves right then and he said, 'Not now, wait for the faceoff.' I turned around to go pick up my gloves feeling pretty foolish and embarrassed, but that was my first introduction to fighting. I did alright in that fight, and it encouraged me to try it out a little bit more.

Whats your favorite place to eat in New Jersey?

Hainesport, N.J.

I'm a big fan of PF Chang's.

What is the funniest team prank you have been involved in?

Sparta, N.J.

MR: I think seeing Brian Gionta's shoelaces cut every day for a few weeks was pretty funny. At some point you have to buy loafers. You can't replace your shoelaces 21 times and not think, 'I'm not gonna wear laces anymore.' I don't care if it's December or not, you have to wear flip-flops or something. I never did any of that though. I started the first prank of the year, putting a mannequin in Brian's car, then I just sat back and didn't do anything the rest of the year. It got scary because everywhere you turned someone was getting burned, so I hung low. I established myself with that one and got blamed for a lot of other things.

I found the mannequin by one of the delivery bays in the back of Prudential Center leaning against a wall. It was white with a towel tied around its waist. Brian had just gotten his brand-new car, so I went and grabbed the keys out of his pockets, and threw it in.

Earlier this summer, Zach Parise said Rupp's mannequin stunt was the best player prank of '07-08.

I've read the you are the player that "organizes" the warm up drills before games. Is this true, and how was it that you were chosen to do this job?

Virginia Beach

I don't remember who was doing it before I did, but someone got hurt and I wound up doing it for a game. It became a running joke and that's why my suggestion box started. You have 20 guys out there and only so much time to get through warm-ups and make sure every guy gets the puck. Some guys want to be the third player receiving the puck, some guys want to be the 11th, so it got a little overwhelming trying to run the warm-up. It became a running joke that anyone with suggestions could put them in the suggestion box.

What do you hope to improve, now that you're going into traning camp?

East Hanover, N.J.

MR: I had an opportunity to play more down the stretch last year, and felt good doing it. I hope to be in better shape to handle that more efficiently. 

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