DENVER (AP) – Pascal Dupuis knew his comeback from the blood clots that sidelined him for most of last season would pose a unique set of challenges.
In the end, the risk proved to be too much.
The versatile Pittsburgh Penguins forward retired on Tuesday, coming to the decision after consulting with team doctors and his family.
“It’s all about them,” said the married father of four. “If all this was on me or if I would have taken a selfish approach to this, I would still be playing.”
The 36-year-old had two goals and two assists in 18 games after missing the majority of the 2014-15 season after blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
He took blood thinners to deal with the condition and was following a protocol that monitored his status.
Dupuis experienced a series of small setbacks, including leaving a game against San Jose last week after two periods with chest pain. He was cleared after undergoing a series of tests and played in weekend losses in Los Angeles and Anaheim.
The extended West Coast road trip, however, gave Dupuis time to think. The rigorous series of exams he needed to undergo every time something popped up was more than a nuisance, it was troubling.
“I don’t feel like I should have my body go through this again,” he said.
Dupuis finishes with 190 goals and 219 assists in 871 games with Pittsburgh, Minnesota, the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) and the New York Rangers.
He helped the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup and was one of the most popular players in the dressing room, beloved as much for his quick wit as his nimble skating and penalty killing prowess.
Penguins’ captain and longtime linemate Sidney Crosby had to gather himself when asked about what Dupuis meant to the club in his nine seasons with Pittsburgh.
“I don’t know if I could get through it, to be honest with you,” Crosby said. “I’m going to miss him a lot.”
Yet Crosby, like the rest of Dupuis’ teammates, understood. They’d watched him fight back from a torn ACL in his right knee in December 2013 and his slow, deliberate recovery from the blood clots. That didn’t stop them from holding their breath every time he went down to block a shot or absorb a hit along the boards.
“It wasn’t always that easy (to watch),” forward Chris Kunitz said.
Penguins team doctor Dharmesh Vyas said the chances Dupuis took while playing along with the side effects of the tests required to monitor him were “not in the best interest of his long-term health.”
While Dupuis admitted it will take some time adjusting to life without the game he’s played since childhood, he expects to be able to live a normal life.
He understood the tenuousness of his situation weighed on family and teammates alike and he stressed he didn’t want to become a distraction.
“Personally, in the offseason I felt he was taking a big risk by trying to play,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “But he’s very determined. He wanted to try it. Medically he can’t do it anymore.”
The Penguins will pay Dupuis through the end of the four-year contract he signed before the 2013-14 season. He hopes to remain involved with the franchise in some capacity. Pittsburgh, which plays Colorado on Wednesday, is off to a sluggish start and sits fifth in the crowded Metropolitan Division.
“My main goal is to try and help this team as much as I can to win the Stanley Cup,” Dupuis said. “But it’s definitely not going to be on the ice.”
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