He battled with a blood clot originally suffered in Ottawa, when Senators defenseman Marc Methot hit Sidney Crosby and he 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.
But after a few scares, Dupuis eventually decided it was time to hang them up. And it turned out that walking away from the sport he lived and breathed for 32 of his 36 years would be the hardest thing he would do.
“It’s really ironic, looking back, that making the decision was going to be the toughest moment for me as a hockey player in my hockey career,” Dupuis said. “Walking away, choosing to put hockey aside, was far scarier than playing with my condition on the ice.”
But just as it took courage for Dupuis to try and come back despite all of the injuries and his condition, it took just as much for him to realize he could no longer continue to play.
And for the strength, determination and dedication he showed over the last two years (but really, his whole career), Dupuis was awarded the inaugural Dapper Dan Courage Award on Wednesday night at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center – presented to a Pittsburgh-area athlete who best exemplifies the meaning of perseverance by overcoming adversity while serving as an inspiration to their teammates or organization.
“It’s definitely great,” Dupuis said. “You never try to get awards and stuff like that. You definitely try to do your job or do what you love passionately and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing my whole career. That’s how I live my life and that’s what I did as a hockey player.
“I wasn’t trying to be a hero. Instead, I consider myself blessed. I was blessed to do what I love for as long as I did. I was blessed to have the support of the greatest organization in professional sports and the friendship of amazing teammates.”
He also feels blessed for the supporting cast around him at home – wife Carole-Lyne and their four children: son Kody and daughters Maeva, Zoe and Lola.
“They were always there behind me in whatever I needed,” Dupuis said. “Whatever support I needed, they were right there giving it to me and I think that’s why I’m here. I think that’s why I had courage to go through everything.
“They’re who I was working hard for. They’re the ones that made me go the extra mile when it was needed. They’re the ones that basically help me through everything I do in life. They’re definitely the main reason why I was playing hockey and they’re the reason why I had to stop playing too. I want to be there for them.”
Dupuis’ entire family was there with him tonight, as was teammate and friend Kris Letang.
Letang remembers the night Dupuis arrived in Pittsburgh after being traded to Pittsburgh from Atlanta along with Marian Hossa eight years ago. Dupuis moved the whole family to an apartment in a hotel at the Waterfront, and his fellow French-Canadian Letang met them there at 5 in the morning after a game. Dupuis said the moment they arrived, the city became home.
“It’s a place my family loves, it’s a place my family feels comfortable,” he said. “It’s a place we’ve made some lifelong friends and it’s a place we’ve made some great memories.”
Letang is one of those lifelong friends who’s become close with Dupuis and his family – as Pascal joked, the defenseman is Lola’s boyfriend. Watching a healthy Dupuis smile and laugh with Carole-Lyne and the kids close by before the dinner began is exactly what the guys wanted for their buddy.
“It takes a lot of courage to try and do what he did, trying to come back despite all those injuries and obviously his condition,” Letang said. “But to see him happy, that’s what his teammates wanted. We all know Pascal has four kids, is really close to his family, so we’re just happy for him that he made that decision and now he’s close to the people he loves.”
Though Dupuis has certainly gotten a lot of time with his wife and kids, he continues to cherish every moment.
“It’s great to be home and good to be part of everything they do,” he said. “Great to be a dad for them and not the hockey player that comes home and rushes somewhere or is getting just a little bit of time to be involved in whatever activities that they’re doing. It’s good to be home that way.”
Hockey was his life, and now, he’s slowly getting used to a life without it. He’s even beginning to feel ready to take the next step professionally.
“It’s definitely been a long road, but we’re here right now and my playing time is over, but as far as moving on and being involved in stuff, I’m starting,” he said.
After announcing he was stepping away from the game back on Dec. 8 and meeting with the Pittsburgh media a few days later, Dupuis needed time to process everything, so he stayed out of the spotlight. But he knew he’d be back under it for this event, and used it as an opportunity to mark a new beginning.
“I’m starting to come out of my shell a little bit,” Dupuis smiled. “I was hiding under a rock for a little while. I didn’t want to see any cameras, didn’t want to talk to anybody. I guess this event is kind of my breaking point to start something else, something different and look ahead, basically.”
It was also a chance to express his gratitude.
“Tonight, I’d like to thank the Pittsburgh Penguins, especially Mr. Mario Lemieux and Mr. Ron Burkle,” he said. “The entire Pittsburgh community. Thanks to the Post-Gazette and the Dapper Dan for giving me the opportunity to properly say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"Thank you to each and every person that made Pittsburgh my home, my family’s home.”