Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 32
The Stanley Cup Journal

(August 20, 2003) — Imagine the pressure of being a 23-year old rookie and stepping into the lineup during a Stanley Cup final to replace an injured star like Joe Nieuwendyk. Then, imagine the 'pinch me, I must be dreaming' elation when you tip a Scott Niedermayer blast past Anaheim's J-S Giguere at 2:22 of the second period to score what would hold up to be the goal that wins your team the Stanley Cup!

Welcome to the world of Michael Rupp.

Michael Rupp is a big, strapping prospect with 'potential' stamped all over him. At 6'5" and 230 pounds, Rupp has the size that makes scouts drool. But it was his soft hands that made him so irresistible that the New York Islanders used their first round pick, number nine overall, to select Rupp in the 1998 Entry Draft. When he wasn't signed on Long Island, Rupp went back into the draft in 2000 and was picked up by the Devils in the third round. Waiting for his chance with the big club, Michael spent two seasons with the Albany River Rats of the AHL. Then, Rupp got the call he had dreamed of and joined the parent Devils earlier this season, spending 26 regular season games in New Jersey.

How did the Kid from Cleveland feel at the time when he was told he'd playing in Game 7 with all the marbles on the line? "I felt really good today," he said, grinning ear to ear after the game. "The leadership and the veterans kept me very calm. I think that's the most calm today that I've been in my NHL career."

The Stanley Cup hero met the trophy he'd helped the Devils earn just past 1AM Monday, August 11. With him stood his wife Christi and their baby daughter, Madeline. Although sound asleep, nine month-old Madeline was wearing her miniature Devils' sweater, with 'Lil Rupper' written in letters on the back. Mike's Mom Debbie and stepfather Bill Coyle recorded the Cup's arrival with their video camera.

Mike Rupp signed autographs for 2 hours at the Westfield Shoppingtown SouthPark, raising money for the Cancer Fund.
At 8 that morning, Mike hosted a breakfast for a handful of family and friends at the Bob Evans Family Restaurant near the family's home in Brunswick, Ohio. With the Stanley Cup seated at a nearby table, astonished diners practically suffered whiplash when they turned and realized that hockey's premier trophy was in the local eatery. Mike then took the trophy over to his mother's accounting firm, Lou-Ray Associates, to show the folks. Back at the Coyle residence, the television crew from 'NHL Cool Shots' arrived to chronicle Mike Rupp's day with the Stanley Cup for an upcoming edition of the well-watched hockey program.

The question 'Cup or cone?' took on a new significance when Rupp brought the Stanley Cup to the Honey Hut Ice Cream Shop!
At 11 o'clock, Rupp and the Stanley Cup appeared at the Center Court of Westfield Shoppingtown SouthPark in nearby Strongsville. Mike signed autographs and fans had their photos taken with the Stanley Cup. Donations to the Jennifer Ferraro Cancer Fund were encouraged through a campaign tagged 'Touch the Cup - Touch a Life,' and Mike's efforts raised over $3,000 in Jennifer's memory. Jennifer, the wife of Mike's 2000-2001 River Rat teammate and NHL veteran Chris Ferraro, died tragically of stomach cancer last November 5. "Hey, we wanted to use the Cup for a good cause," Mike stated. Almost 1,000 people lined up over two hours unconditionally agreed.

It was just after 1PM and time to eat, so Mike took the Stanley Cup to Einstein Brothers Bagels for a quick lunch to go. And since childhood, we've all equated ice cream with celebrations, so Rupp then made the trip to the Honey Hut Ice Cream Shop. Carrying the Stanley Cup behind the counter, Mike asked for the world's biggest ice cream sundae. "Load it up for me, and use a scoop of every flavour you've got," Rupp laughed. "Yeah, but make sure vanilla peanut butter is on the top," added Mike's step-Dad. "That's Mike's favourite!" The ladies went to work, and when all was said and done, the Stanley Cup became the world's most historic ice cream sundae dish, complete with twenty scoops of ice cream, hot fudge topping and whipped cream to complete the presentation. "Mmmm. Man, this is amazing," Mike mumbled, his mouth full of the vanilla peanut butter. Baby Madeline reached out for a mouthful too, and Christi gave her a taste. Madeline fussed for more, and on this special occasion, Mike and Christi acquiesced and let Lil Rupper have a little extra. "Dig in," Mike encouraged, and his family and friends each grabbed a spoon to finish Monday's sundae.

The Stanley Cup is comfortable at any Hall of Fame. Mike played the role of rock god at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The Stanley Cup is usually on exhibit at the Hockey Hall of Fame, but on this day, it would visit another Hall of Fame. Cleveland has become an incredibly popular tourist destination since it became home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on September 2, 1995. "We've got to go there," Mike suggested, and so the Cup made the pilgrimage to music's most monumental museum.

After a stop for photographs and autographs at the Lakewood Fire Department, Michael Rupp returned to his alma mater, St. Edward High School. Built in 1949, the all-male institution is run by the Brothers of Holy Cross of Notre Dame, and Mike graduated in 1997 before joining the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires. Mike addressed the students, who roared with pride when their alumnus stated, "If not for St. Ed's, I wouldn't be the man or hockey player I am today."

Nothing else matters when you bring the Stanley Cup to your alma mater! Rupp visited St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio.
Rupp then took the Stanley Cup to the Berea Children's Home, a home for neglected or abused children up to eighteen years of age who can benefit from the assistance provided there. Mike's visit was incredibly valuable, and the 75 or so residents got the chance to ask questions of a local hero. "Ever get in a fight, Mike?" "How many innings in a hockey game?" The kids were great and Rupp patiently answered the questions and allowed the residents to examine the Stanley Cup at close range.

Packing in as much as he could in his twenty-four hours, Mike then carried the Stanley Cup into the Cleveland Browns' Training and Administrative Complex, just around the corner in Berea. The football players knew exactly what the Stanley Cup means to the hockey world, and crowded around the revered trophy. Because many of the Browns are so tall and so muscular, the trophy looked like a toy in their hands. "Dawg, look at this," Andra Davis said to no one in particular, pointing to Wayne Gretzky's name. Then Butch Davis, Cleveland's coach, used the Stanley Cup and Mike Rupp's appearance for an inspired talk with the Browns. "Boys, Mike Rupp here wasn't part of the lineup for the New Jersey Devils most of last season. But when his time came, he rose to the occasion and scored the goal that won the championship for his team. You never know when it's going to be your time to shine. Be ready, boys. Be ready!" A chorus of 'Yeahs' came from the Browns' dressing room. They understood.

Mike and wife Christi hosted a skating party for friends and family at Iceland USA in Strongsville.
Mike and Christi and their families planned a party for that evening, and thought it might be fun to invite family and friends for a skate. The Rupp party was held in Strongsville at Iceland USA, a twin-pad arena with a reception area in between the two rinks. Mike had Devils' souvenirs and held a raffle that raised additional money for the Jennifer Ferraro Cancer Fund. Guests wore the rented skates - purple Microns all too common at public skating rinks - and circled the ice with Mike and the Stanley Cup. For some, it was their first time on skates in years, and they clung to the boards around the perimeter of the rink. Mike has been preparing for the 2003-04 season and is a regular at Iceland USA.

The Counting Crows were co-headlining a date with John Mayer at Cleveland's Blossom Music Center that night, and the band's lead singer, Adam Duritz, had asked if there was a way for him to see the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, it had been a long day and it was too late to make the request happen. Michael Rupp was exhausted. He had packed an incredible number of stops into his day with the Stanley Cup, had enjoyed some fun, shared his victory and raised money for a worthwhile cause. "It's one o'clock and I am done!" A few final photographs and the day came to an end. "It was unfortunate that Joe (Nieuwendyk) was injured but it was a great opportunity for me," Mike explained. "I just wanted to contribute in any way possible. They put me on a line with Jeff (Friesen) and Jamie (Langenbrunner) and our primary role was to keep Anaheim from scoring. But I got a break and got a goal. It was an unbelievable feeling. It still is an unbelievable feeling! If you asked me a year ago, I definitely never thought I'd be hosting a Stanley Cup party!"

The net results of a great day with Martin Brodeur and the Stanley Cup will be chronicled Friday in Stanley Cup Journal.

Kevin Shea is a Toronto hockey historian and journalist.

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