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Finding Strength Through Hockey

By Carolyn Smith Casertano, American Cancer Society, 11/05/18, 12:00PM CST


High school coach’s legacy and impact on the St. Louis hockey community lives on with his team

The Pioneers, like so many other teams, have vowed to never give up against their fiercest opponent – cancer.

Duchesne High School hockey coach Dan Rupp was 49 when he lost his battle with cancer. Courtesy photo

The hockey community is a family. And, like most families, it has been touched by cancer.

The Duchesne High School Pioneers know this all too well. Hockey coach Dan Rupp was just 49-years-old when he lost his battle with cancer. He was first diagnosed with colon cancer at age 46 and underwent multiple major surgeries during the 2016-2017 hockey season to remove the tumors.

During his treatment his Duchesne High School Pioneers Hockey Club team rallied around him, and Rupp refused to let the diagnosis stop him from fully supporting them. He even surprised the Pioneers by attending the 2017 senior night, not long after a 17-hour major surgery to remove several tumors in his stomach, arriving to cheers and tears from both teams.

"I thought it was important that I be there," Rupp said at the time. "These kids mean a lot to me."

Although his prognosis after his initial treatment seemed to indicate a favorable outcome, more cancer was later discovered. He began the 2017-2018 season with the Pioneers, but as the intensity of the new treatment progressed, he was unable to finish out the season.

Dan Rupp’s legacy and impact on the hockey community in St. Louis lives on with his team. Courtesy photo

He attended as many games as physically possible and continued to support the team throughout his battle, just as the team supported its coach. His players remained hopeful, and as the assistant coach took over the duties for the team, players were in regular communication with Rupp, noting that, "they were a better team because of him."

On January 9, 2018, after a courageous three-year battle with cancer, Rupp passed away. His team went back to the ice hours after his service for a game, with heavy hearts but determined spirits.

After one of Rupp's players scored, the player pointed to the sky for Rupp, claiming "I wanted him to know that that was for him. He helped make me the player that I am, and that was a way of showing him that I never will forget what he did for me."

Dan’s son Joe took over coaching for his dad, noting, "It hurts and always will," Joe said. "But it helps to be around these guys. They all loved him too, and this team is playing with a lot of heart. Playing for him, it's helping us all get through the season."

Rupp’s legacy and impact on the hockey community in St. Louis, Missouri, lives on with his team as it continues to play in his memory. The Pioneers, like so many other teams, have vowed to never give up against their fiercest opponent – cancer.

To commemorate Rupp’s life, the Pioneers have decided to join the hockey family in supporting Hockey Fights Cancer. This November they will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Night, with players wearing special Hockey Fights Cancer helmet decals featuring lavender stick tape and helping raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Founded in 1998 by the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association, Hockey Fights Cancer unites the hockey community in support of cancer patients and their families. Because cancer has touched so many lives in the hockey community, like Dan Rupp’s, the HFC Assist program allows youth and local hockey teams across the country to fundraise and support Hockey Fights Cancer just like their favorite NHL team.

All youth teams are invited to join the fight by visiting

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