For 14 of his 21 seasons in professional hockey, defenseman Guy Dupuis skated onto the ice at Memorial Coliseum with the Komets.
He gazed up to the rafters at names like Len Thornson, Lionel Repka and Eddie Long, the one player he wound up emulating in so many ways, and thought maybe his name would someday join theirs.
On Saturday, it will.
Before the game against the Evansville IceMen, No. 2 will be become the 13th number retired by the Komets, who are in their 60th season.
It is going to be weird, and I’m not sure how I’m going to feel, said Dupuis, 41, the former captain, who retired last summer after helping the Komets to four championships.
I’m sure it will be emotional. Playing hockey, all you want is to win championships. And the second thing, well, you see some jerseys retired and think, That’s really nice that the organization thought really highly of those players and retired their jerseys.’ Now, it’s going to be me. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel, but I know there are going to be a lot of emotions running.
Dupuis, a third-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 1988, first joined the Komets for 10 games in 1991-92. When he returned the next season, he helped them to the IHL’s Turner Cup.
But he was a stay-at-home defenseman, much different than the prolific scorer he morphed into later.
He was a young rookie learning the game, said Al Sims, who coached Dupuis for six seasons, including Dupuis’ first and last with the Komets.
The thing that stuck with me about the young Guy was his work ethic and his class. Always getting on the ice early, working on his edges and his shot, he did that in his first year and his last year. He was a great example for everyone else.
Between 1999 and 2005, Dupuis played for five other teams, but his return led to three straight IHL championships from 2008 to 2010.
He ended up with more goals (140), assists (454) or points (594) than any other defenseman in franchise history.
And his 1,040 games played are a team record, 174 more than Long, Mr. Komet.
Dupuis has no regrets about retiring after last season, when he had 10 goals, 28 assists and 38 points, all his lowest since playing for Bakersfield in 2002-03.
For sure, there are going to be some parts of hockey I’m going to miss. But in the latter years, it was more and more difficult to get game-shape and season-shape ready, Dupuis said.
It was time. Who knows what would have happened if I played another year? I had a good year last year, not a great year, but I think it was just the right time to hang them up.
Dupuis is now a salesman for Diversified Marketing Solutions Inc., buying surplus automotive parts from manufacturers and selling them to salvage yards and recyclers.
His territory is Canada, allowing him to use his French much of the time.
It’s up to me to find ways to contact people and make sure that everybody that I’m responsible for knows what we have in inventory and that we get our stuff shipped, Dupuis said. It’s a really good switch from hockey to that. It’s so competitive there, and you really have to meet your goals, and I’m really enjoying it.
Dupuis always had the drive to succeed – that’s what kept him in skates so long – and what made him so loved in Fort Wayne.
You know, for me, I thought his skating would hold him back when I first saw him as a young kid. I didn’t think he’d have that type of career, Sims said. But he worked on it and was a better skater at the end of his playing days than at the start. That tells you about his work ethic.
Everything improved up to his last play. He made the most of what he had.
Notes: The Komets are in negotiations to sign defenseman Brent Henley, a physical defenseman who skated 83 games with them between 2006 and 2008, totaling 10 assists and 335 penalty minutes. Henley, 31, who is 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, sat out last season with a knee injury and skated one game with Utah of the ECHL this season.