Thursday, January 13, 2011
Mike Rupp originally played for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 1997-98 and then moved to the Erie Otters half way through the season. He was then drafted by the New York Islanders 9th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He continued to play for the Otters for the next two seasons without ever signing with the Islanders, which made him eligible for the draft again in 2000, where he was then selected by the New Jersey Devils 76th overall.
Following his being drafted by the Devils he was assigned to the Albany River Rats of the AHL for two and a half seasons before making his NHL debut on this date in 2003, which just so happened to be Rupp's 23rd birthday. If making his NHL debut on his birthday were not enough, Rupp scored his first NHL goal at the 3:07 mark of the second period against Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers to give the Devils a 2-0 lead when he picked up a loose puck along the left side boards, skated in on Luongo and ripped a shot into the upper right corner.
After Florida scored to make the game 2-1, Rupp scored again when he one-timed a cross-ice pass by Patrik Elias at 11:39 to give the Devils a 3-1 lead to become the first player in NHL history to score twice in his NHL debut on his birthday. He nearly had a hat trick, but had a first period goal called back for having his stick above the crossbar on a tip in!
"I guess a boyhood dream would be to just play in the game," Rupp said. "To get a couple of goals in more of a fantasy. I just dreamed of playing. To get a goal was icing on the cake. I can't really explain it. It's a great feeling."
The offensive fireworks were somewhat of a surprise as Rupp had just six goals in 41 with Albany up to that point in the season and would add just three more over the next 25 games he would play that season.
The Devils made a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals that season, and while Rupp only played in four of the Devils 24 games that season, he scored the first goal of the Devils 3-0 victory in Game 7, becoming the first player in NHL history to have his first playoff goal be the Stanley Cup winning goal.
After 51 games of the 2003-04 season, Rupp was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes but would only play six games with the Coyotes. He was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2005-06 season but a broken foot kept him out of 12 games and then an irregular heart beat ended his season after 39 games.
Rupp signed with the Devils once again as a free agent in 2006-07 and played three seasons with New Jersey prior to a move to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 2009-10 season in which he scored a career high 13 goals, easily outdistancing his previous high of 6.
Today's featured jersey is a 2002-03 New Jersey Devils Mike Rupp jersey as worn during his rookie season in the NHL.
The Devils original jerseys were red with green and white trim, which naturally was associated with the Christmas season.
Things changed in 1992, when the Devils dropped the green from their jerseys and replaced it with black. The jersey is now on it's way to joining the Canadiens, Red Wings and Blackhawks as one of the longest tenured iconic jerseys in the NHL, as team president Lou Lamoriello steadfastly remains against any changes to the Devils jersey adopted in 1992, including the adoption of an alternate jersey for the Devils.
Here is Rupp scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.
Here is Rupp scoring his first NHL hat trick on November 30, 2009
Finally, Rupp is a good sport and publicly admits his attraction to teammate Bill Guerin.