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Ben Smith

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1 game at a time adds up to 1,000

Dupuis

One thousand Komets games for the man, and so now for the geezer lines.

How do you maintain such a high level of energy after all this time?

“Three vitamin Cs … two vitamin Bs …” Guy Dupuis jokes.

Looking back to when you started …

“I don’t remember that,” he interrupts. “When was that? Refresh my memory.”

And then a big laugh, of course. Cue the rimshot.

Cue the rimshot and the lines and maybe a smattering of applause, too, because it’s not every day a man plays in his 1,000th career game with a team. It is this day, actually.

For Dupuis, it will be no different from any other day, because that’s how you do this, by stacking one day atop another atop another until they add up to 1,000 games with one team (1,291 overall). And then, when that day comes, you are astounded, because all you’ve ever done is put your head down and grind and outwork people every day you could, never once looking up to notice just what it all had come to.

“You really do go one game at a time, one week at a time,” Dupuis says, all joking aside. “You look ahead to whatever your schedule is – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – and you try to contribute as much as you can.”

And the 1,000-game milestone, which Dupuis will reach tonight in Bloomington, Ill.?

“I guess it’s a nice little feat,” he says. “But all it is is a number, really. It’s surprising to me that in the history of the Komets, nobody else has done it.”

That he’s done it owes much to, yes, good fortune physically, but also to the simple fact that, when you get down to the nub of it, he’s still in many ways the 20-year-old kid from Moncton, New Brunswick, who turned up in Glens Falls, N.Y., in the fall of 1990, looking to play a little hockey for the Adirondack Red Wings. All these years later, the game still has its hooks in him; in his 40th year, he still comes to the rink early and stays late, gathering pucks out there by the blue line and then blistering one after another into the goal after all but a handful of teammates have left the ice.

Part of this is because, as he says, he’s never been the most skilled player, and so he’s had to come early and stay late to succeed. And part of it is the simple joy of the game for the game’s sake, all its small beauties: watching a puck fly off his stick and then dip beneath the crossbar; enjoying the way the back of the net shimmies on impact.

“Guy’s enthusiasm is incredible,” says his coach, Al Sims, who first coached Dupuis here 17 seasons ago and jokes that seeing him still out there sometimes makes him feel old. “For a guy his age to keep playing and to have the enthusiasm he has every game, … I think that’s what keeps him going. He’s got an incredible drive obviously to succeed as an individual and as a player and as a teammate.”

And as for tonight …

Well. He’ll come to the rink. He’ll pull on the gear. He’ll give the boys – some of whom weren’t even a year old when he played his first pro game – the needle, and get it back in turn.

And then, it’s onto the ice. Same as 999 other nights.

“To me, always, playing hockey was fun,” he says. “I really enjoyed trying to help my team, to bring something to the table. That’s what hockey is all about for me.”

Every single day.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by e-mail at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648 or at the “Ben Smith” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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