Duane Rupp was a deceptively large rearguard whose lean frame diffused the reality of his size. He had perhaps the biggest pair of hands in pro hockey. But he only used them to rugged ends when provoked. Otherwise, he was the slow-to-anger type who was reserved, unassuming and quiet.
He played his junior hockey for the Flin Flon Bombers where his team won the Memorial Cup in 1957. From the pinnacle of victory, however, Rupp would then descend into a lengthy career as a journeyman minor-leaguer probing for the odd opening at the top.
During the early to mid-1960s, he picked up a few games with the Rangers and later with the Leafs. But Toronto had just discovered NHL Rookie-of-the-Year Kent Douglas who, himself, had only narrowly earned a spot on a blueline filled with the likes of Allan Stanley, Tim Horton, Carl Brewer and Bobby Baun.
But Rupp's patient wait in the AHL eventually paid off. In 1967-68, he finally picked up full-time action in Blue and White. By season's end, he finished as a +16 and made an appearance in the All-Star Game. But shortly thereafter, the Leafs left him unprotected in an Intra-League Draft. The North Stars picked him off and eventually traded him to his most notable home, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In Pittsburgh, Rupp was a welcome addition to a club that consistently gave up more goals than it scored. Over his five seasons with the club, he quietly went about bringing stability to the Pens' blueline while dramatically increasing his point totals over his earlier big-league stints.
But the longer he spent in Pittsburgh, the more the fans began to boo him, despite his sound defensive game. Pens fans had a reputation of expecting big men to make big, bone-crunching hits at all times. Rupp's quiet nature and slowness to boil were interpreted as signs of weakness?qualities detested by Penguin fans. As such, he had to endure the scorn of his own crowd.
In 1973, at age 35, Rupp left the NHL for good to join the Hershey Bears of the AHL. But then the World Hockey Association arrived, bringing new opportunities to old warriors to extend their careers.
He put in a season with the Vancouver Blazers and most of a second with the Calgary Cowboys until that old Pittsburgh issue raised its head again. Cowboy fans, like their Penguin counterparts, wanted to see Rupp draw more blood. When he failed to respond, they booed him so badly that he was ushered out of town to finish his pro career with the Rochester Americans of the AHL in 1977.