One for the subs

The bench-warmers and second-stringers of the world have a new hero today. His name is Mike Rupp.
Nothing warms a sports fan’s heart like having a virtual unknown step to the forefront in the biggest game of their team’s season and deliver the decisive blow to secure championship glory.
The achievements of Rupp in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to lead the New Jersey Devils (see, I told you so—9-6 isn’t all that bad a record for my playoff predictions) to the Holy Grail of hockey over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim was an example of athletic folklore unfolding before our very eyes.
But it was more than that. It was an example both athletes and coaches can learn a great deal from.
Rupp was a rookie for the Devils. I say was, even though he only played 26 regular-season games and merely four playoff ones for New Jersey this season, because somewhere between sitting in the press box for most of three earlier playoff rounds and Monday night, he turned into a tested veteran.
No rookie would spend half the season with the Devils’ AHL team in Albany and then come through with the performance of a lifetime in what was a defining game for the New Jersey franchise.
No youngster with only five goals to his credit in the regular season, and none in the playoffs up until Monday night, would have the wherewithal to deftly tip the puck past Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the crucial first tally of the game—and the eventual Stanley Cup winner.
No untested newcomer, who was relegated to the fourth line in the few chances he got to play, would be in on every one of his team’s goals with the brightest spotlights in the hockey world shining down where he played.
No, Rupp grew up in a big hurry Monday night—and every player who’s faced being a healthy scratch on a regular basis or who barely got a sniff of the playing surface when he or she was suited up for action had to be cheering.
He proved that, through hard work and a refusal to quit believing in one’s self, that even the lowest person on the team totem pole can contribute to success.
Rupp’s effort reiterated the fact to every athlete who’s been stuck on the sidelines seemingly forever that preparation, and the willingness to open the door when opportunity knocks, can turn instantly from a self-conceived nobody to everybody’s favourite.
I would like to think a few coaches I’ve known in my time were watching Rupp, too, and thinking about their own strategies when it comes to game-time management.
Several at the helm benches in different sports too frequently forget about the players at the end of the bench—the ones they deem too risky to put out in a clutch situation because the coach doesn’t want to catch heat if those particular players make a mistake and cost the team a goal, a point, or most importantly to the coach, a victory.
Nobody’s giving any heat to Devils’ coach Pat Burns this morning, I’ll bet. Rupp made his bench boss look like a genius, and showed that you don’t have to make millions to thrill millions more.
Remember, coaches, if you put someone on your team, you’re sending them the message you think that person can play. If you don’t ever let them play, you may have no idea what you could be missing out on.
Just ask Mike Rupp. Or the Mighty Ducks, for that matter.
• • •
Best of luck goes out to Raymond Bedard as the Fort Frances athlete heads for the Emerald Isle this weekend to test his mettle against the very best at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin.
Bedard will take his best shot in the 200m dash and running long jump as he looks to bring home the gold.
But win or lose, he’s already done his hometown proud. May the luck of the Irish be yours, Ray.
• • •
A mixed team from the Kitchen Creek Golf Club shot their way to a second-place finish at the Granny’s Pro Lady tournament at Bridge’s Golf Course in Starbuck, Man. two weeks ago.
The foursome of Megan Ross, Dana Kosowick, Rosemary Haglund, and Kitchen Creek head pro Steve Wood carded a 14-under 59 to end up only one stroke behind a group from Killarney, Man.
The event saw the ladies play a Texas scramble format, with Wood playing his own ball all the way through. Each team then took its best score from each hole to compile its eventual total.
• • •
A memo to all team captains in the local slo-pitch league: It’s difficult for me to publish results if practically nobody actually sends or phones in any to me.
So far, the only scores I’ve received from the 24-team, three-nights-a-week circuit are these: Manitou 5, The Rumours 0 on May 27; Manitou 21, Night Hawks 5 on June 3, with Louisa Bird scoring the winning run; and Rockets 24, Ed Kaun & Sons 12 on June 3, with Floyd Vivie picking up the win on the mound and Jeff Friesen hitting an inside-the-park homer.
Christine Denby of Gillons’ Allsorts (June 3) and Jack Kellar from Shade (June 4) were named Players of the Game. I just wish I had been given scores from those games—or any games, for that matter.
So if you want your team to get some print time, just give me a quick call or e-mail so I can give you the coverage you deserve. Thanks, and I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
If you are planning any sporting events, or have some sports-related information or scores, feel free to call me at 274-5373 ext. 237 or by e-mail at jpayeur@fortfrances.com

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