DENVER, Colorado – It's a sad day for hockey.
The Penguins announced on Tuesday afternoon that winger Pascal Dupuis, the team's heart and soul for the past eight-plus seasons, will no longer play hockey.
Dupuis, 36, has battled with a blood clot for the previous two years in an attempt to return to the ice. Although the blood clot has not returned, Dupuis decided that the time had come to step away from the game following a few recent scares.
"We've been talking about it for a little while," Dupuis said. "When I left the San Jose game (on Dec. 1) after the second period it made it more clear in my head that it was something that was weighing on me, my wife, my kids, the team and my teammates.
"I had a little bit of chest pain that I had to get checked. Nothing was there, but going through all the testing, radiation, CAT Scan, I don't feel like I should have my body go through this again."
It's always a difficult decision to walk away from the sport you love. But Dupuis' health and family – wife Carole-Lyne and four children Maeva, Zoe, Lola and Kody – are his No. 1 concern.
"One-hundred percent," Dupuis said of his family reasons. "It's all about them. If all this was on me or if I was taking a selfish approach I would probably still be playing."
"It's tough to watch something like this, especially (with) a terrific guy like Dupuis and what he's done for the team," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "But when you sit back and think about it, he's doing it for the right reasons. You have to keep your priorities straight and he's got his priorities straight."
Dupuis knew that it would be difficult to play this season while dealing with his health issues. And he promised his family that if he wasn't feeling well he would pull himself out of the game and make sure he was checked out medically. Although he wasn't prepared for what that would all entail.
"We knew that I might have to miss games on a blocked shot or a cut. But not experiencing what I did when I missed those two games," said Dupuis, who was also pulled from a game in Edmonton in early November.
"I went into this at 100 percent. I gave myself the chance to play and be in the lineup and go through the protocol and try. Obviously I wasn't thinking about all the testing that was required to be able to play."
Dupuis notified his teammates Tuesday morning.
"It made it emotional for me," he said. "The guys on the bench and in the locker room were obviously concerned with how I was feeling. I don't want to be a distraction."
Dupuis' past two seasons were cut short due to injury and each time he remained around the team. He hopes to continue that despite not being able to play anymore.
"I didn't play last year and I was around as much as they wanted me to be," Dupuis said. "My main goal is to try to help this team as much as I can to win the Stanley Cup. But it will definitely not be on the ice."
Dupuis' presence on the ice is something that the team will sorely miss.
"He will leave a big hole from what he does for the team," Rutherford said. "From the off ice in the dressing room to being on the bench between periods, all those things. Plus, all the things he does on the ice. I'm not going to be able to find the same player as he is. But we're going to have to replace him."
Dupuis originally suffered the blood clot in Ottawa when Senators defenseman Marc Methot hit Sidney Crosby, who fell into Dupuis' knee on Dec. 23, 2013. The sequence caused Dupuis to tear his ACL and MCL and he missed the remainder of the season.
During rehab, a blood clot formed in Dupuis' knee and he was on blood thinners. He returned to the ice the following season for the start of the 2014-15 campaign. However, the blood clot returned and traveled to his lung.
After just 16 games, Dupuis' season again was over as he would be on blood thinners for a six-month period.
Dupuis refused to quit. He maintained his conditioning while taking the blood thinners and worked hard all summer in an effort to return to the ice. He made another comeback to start the current year.
The Pens were very cautious with Dupuis' health. He was pulled out of a game in Edmonton on Nov. 6 after he wasn't feeling well. Tests came back negative for a blood clot. Dupuis was also pulled after two periods in San Jose on Dec. 1 after again not feeling well. He returned to the ice following both incidents.
"In my mind I could see it coming," Rutherford said. "It's always been his decision, which it should have been, but personally in the offseason I felt he was taking a big risk by trying to play. He's very determined, he wanted to help the team. He wanted to try it. He gave it his best shot, but medically he can't do it anymore."