When Paul Carey scored the NHL’s first goal of 2018 to open the Winter Classic at Citi Field on Monday — his sixth in 59 career games — many were reminded of another unlikely Winter Classic hero for the Rangers.
That would be Mike Rupp, who on Jan. 2, 2012, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia scored two goals in the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Flyers. That was the same number of goals he scored in his other 67 regular-season games for the Rangers.
“It’s a big stage, and you feel like everybody’s watching,” Rupp, now an NHL Network analyst who was at Citi Field for Monday’s game, said during the first intermission.
He recalled how coach John Tortorella inserted Rupp’s line immediately after the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in the second period. Rupp scored his first goal 30 seconds later.
“That’s showing a belief in you [by the coach],” he said. “We got a chance to be out there, and it was a pretty big moment for us.”
Rupp said he was impressed by the Rangers’ play early in Monday’s game, by the condition of the ice and by the many thousands of Rangers fans who showed up to watch in frigid weather.
While the 2012 game remains a memorable moment for Rupp, he has his regrets about it, too.
He said he was hurt during training camp that year, and he later missed about two months following knee surgery in mid-autumn.
“My rehab set me up for coming back right around the new year, but I pushed my rehab a little quicker,” he said. He returned in mid-December so he would be near full strength by Jan. 2.
“Hindsight being 20/20, I probably shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I came back too early and never really was able to strengthen my leg the rest of the season. The good thing is I got into that Winter Classic game.”