Lockout mentality wears on Dupuis

PITTSBURGH -- You could hardly find a more low-key, agreeable person than Pascal Dupuis.

Yet even the veteran Pittsburgh Penguins forward acknowledged that he has found it difficult to stay on an even keel this fall.

He recalled how after the NHL owners locked out their players for the second time in eight years, he grew impatient, a little short-tempered.

"You get anxious. You want everything to start. You're not in the right mood," he explained.

"I was not in the greatest mind at home."

Finally he told his wife that he was sorry and that he was going to try to be better, and even though there was no hockey, he was going to be the old Pascal Dupuis.

He jokes that he's not sure his wife, a native of Shawinigan, Quebec, would agree, but he thinks he's managed to turn the corner.

"I think I've been better about it," he said.

"Right now, I'm Super Dad," he added with a laugh.

He's home every day. He sleeps in his own bed every night.

And with four children ages 8, 6, 4 and 2, Dupuis gets lots of practice putting on his fatherly cape and springing into action without the demanding NHL routine to interfere.

On this day, after working out with a handful of his Penguins teammates at a suburban hockey complex in Southpointe, Dupuis picked his daughter up at day care.

Later he will take his son to hockey practice and will don the blades again and join him on the ice, something that he wouldn't have had an opportunity to do had the season unfolded as normal.

"Right now, I'm the Tony Granato of my son's hockey team," Dupuis said, referencing the Penguins' assistant coach.

There is tumbling for his other daughter and Brownies and swimming for the oldest three kids.

There is homework with tutors to monitor and dinners to make.

These are moments that make the frustration of the lockout bearable.

Eight years ago, Dupuis, then a member of the Minnesota Wild, spent the first few weeks in Minnesota and then returned to his native Quebec, where he played in a charity tour organized by former player Joel Bouchard. When the season was canceled, he went to Switzerland and played for his former junior coach who was coaching in the Swiss 'B' league.

His first child had just been born, and he was at a different place in his career. Now with four children and in a more secure place financially, heading off to Europe really isn't an option. Not now, anyway.

But it is, of course, frustrating.

With Sidney Crosby and a couple of other regulars in Dallas this week, there weren't enough players for a full scrimmage, so the locked-out Pens played across the ice 2-on-2 or 3-on-3.

They have an arrangement with a local sporting goods store operator who helps out with their laundry and things like that at the rink, and they can keep the same room during the week, which cuts down on the hassle.

"But we have to get our stuff out of there for the weekends and the kids teams that come in," Dupuis said.

The players can't use the team's workout facility at Southpointe, but there is a gym at the arena complex, so that is a bonus for the few who remain in Pittsburgh.

Still, it goes without saying this has been an uneasy time for all the players.

"It's not what we do this time of the year," Dupuis said.

Right now, the Pens should be getting in a groove with six or eight games under their belts.

As for the lockout, Dupuis remains cautiously optimistic that a deal can get done that will see him and his Penguins teammates return to work.
"Right now, I'm not sure. I'm still hopeful it will happen. At the same time, geez, they need to get in a room and take care of that," he said.

Teammate Craig Adams is the team's representative with the NHLPA, and he remains in Pittsburgh with his family as well. Dupuis said the group will talk and ask questions and discuss the ongoing issues as the lockout has evolved.

If there are 720 NHLers affected by the lockout, it's entirely possible there are 720 different lockout stories.

The native of Laval, Quebec, is 33 and has become an important piece of the Penguins' puzzle. After coming over as a throw-in in the Marian Hossa deal at the 2008 trade deadline, Dupuis was part of the Pens' Cup-winning team the following June.

He has played at times alongside Crosby. He has killed penalties and logged hard minutes on the Pens' third and fourth lines.

Last year, in spite of the fact that he saw almost no power-play time, Dupuis managed to collect points in 17 straight games -- a streak that was the longest in the NHL last season and one of the longest in Penguins team history.

He was second on the team with eight game-winning goals (tied for seventh in the NHL), and his 59 points were a career high. He added six more points in the Penguins' six postseason games.

The 2012-13 season is the last on Dupuis' current contract. The sooner he gets to playing, the sooner he makes a case for the Penguins to keep him around.

"It was a little frustrating at first that I couldn't go right back to it," Dupuis acknowledged.

But he also believes he will be ready to step back into a groove mentally and physically whenever there is hockey to be played.

"Mentally, I know I can do it now. When it starts, hopefully I'll be the same player," he said.

For Dupuis, the lockout is as much about the near future as the distant future.

"It's our future. It's our now. It's our livelihood," he said.