Mike Rupp has come a long way to be where he is today. The Cleveland, Ohio native had a dream of playing in the NHL one day. That dream began when Rupp was just 16 years old when he played in the NAHL for the Cleveland Jr. Barons. During that 1996-97 season, he had 17 points in 21 games played adding 75 penalty minutes.
The next season, he would move onto play in the major junior Ontario Hockey League and in the summer of 1998, just a year after playing in the NAHL, he was selected in the 1st round (9th overall) by the New York Islanders in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
On Monday, Rupp scored two goals to lead the New York Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. The following were his thoughts following the game as reported on nhl.com:
You're always thinking you can be the player to change the momentum of a game. When it actually is you finishing off the goal that does change the momentum, it is an amazing experience.
Scoring that first goal today was big because we needed one in a bad way. The Flyers had just gotten two in a row and we knew if they got a third it would have been really difficult to come back. We all went out there after Claude Giroux scored -- myself, Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Marc Staal and Stu Bickel -- thinking 'Let's do something here. Let's pull this momentum from them.'
We did and it was enough to cut the lead.
Getting the second goal, the game-tying goal, was also huge. Everybody has to contribute and I only had one goal coming into today. I've always thought one of the strongest points of our team is the production comes from up and down the lineup, and I didn't want to be one who never did it. So, it feels good.
I also know as a player that I can do a lot of different things, but this year so far I haven't felt I have been tapping into all those areas. It was important to me to contribute more.
Overall, the experience was just awesome. It really is much better to be on the winning side of the Winter Classic than on the losing side. I felt it the other way last year and it wasn't fun, but we as a team need to remember that we haven't won anything yet. Yes, we won this game and it's a big one, but can't go around puffing out our chests and thinking we won something equivalent to a Game 7.
This wasn't a Game 7, but it did feel good in that moment to win this game.
The experience was awesome. I've always said Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities to play in, and this event was so well done here. We all really enjoyed our time, but we've got three more games against the Flyers this season and we have a big game Thursday against Florida.