SAN JOSE --
Before the Stanley Cup Final began, Pascal Dupuis
knew that this Cup run would not be like the last, back in 2009.
He would be watching, not playing, experiencing this one from the discomfort of a suit and tie, cursed by recurring blood clots to a retirement he was not quite ready to accept. Or, at least, he hadn't quite accepted it while repeatedly ignoring his body, staying on the ice when he knew he shouldn't have been, extending his career as long as he possibly could until the truth and his health ended it.
He shed the suit and tie by the end of Game 6 on Sunday, putting on the Pittsburgh Penguins uniform for one final turn around the ice, one final turn with his arms raised and the Cup shining above him.
This was his final moment.
Sidney Crosby took his skate with the Cup, kissed it and presented it to the SAP Center crowd and the Penguins faithful who had been able to watch their team win the NHL championship in person. He passed it to Trevor Daley, who had broken his ankle in the Eastern Conference Final and had not played in this round against the San Jose Sharks.
And Daley passed it to Dupuis, who had not played since Dec. 6.
He raised the Cup, wearing his No. 9 jersey, his last act as a hockey player, as the cheers rained down.
"It's a great feeling," Dupuis said. "Obviously, you come on the ice and I knew it was basically the last time I would put this on and to come on the ice [and win] the Stanley Cup is obviously a great moment.
"It was great. It came around and I looked at the owner, the staff, and I basically thanked them and I went across. I knew my wife and kids were down there, so I lift it one more [time]."
But getting here was not easy. No, it was far from it. This was something like torture, watching his teammates play and battle and do what he had always done, to be kept away from the ice, to watch. This was not the way Dupuis had wanted it to happen.
He didn't sulk, though. That is not his way.
"Not at all," he said. "It was hard for me personally, but depressed, not at all. You see the way they were playing, the winning hockey, and that's all that matters for me, these guys winning. Obviously, I knew I couldn't play."
He wanted to be out there, with his teammates. He wanted to be playing. He couldn't.
"It's definitely hard," Dupuis said. "I can't compare [to winning in 2009] because obviously you're on the ice, you battle to win a championship. It's the hardest thing in life. It's the hardest trophy to win. But just to be sidelined and not be part of it, it was definitely hard, but nothing compared to these guys who won it."
This was not what he had envisioned. Well, perhaps the part about raising the Cup at the end of this season. But not the rest, not the blood clots, not the forced retirement.
"You can't ever plan that," Dupuis said. "You don't plan that. But the fact that I am here right now, I'll enjoy it."
When Dupuis was done with his lap on the ice, he handed the Cup off again, passing it to Marc-Andre Fleury, who accepted with a smile. Dupuis was done, off to his family and to his post-hockey life, off to figure out what exactly is next.
With a nod to the bittersweet nature of the quest, Dupuis had admitted to one wish before the Cup Final, when he reflected back on getting to this point and on a future he did not quite understand or comprehend. He had turned to a blown-up poster of the Cup and voiced his hope, that his name would once again grace the trophy.
He had the same hope once the Cup had been secured, once he had watched his teammates win it, once the dream had been realized.
"I would love that," he said as he went off to seek out his family. "That would be great. I'm sure hoping it will be there."