Skidmore's Dupuis emerges from roots in northern Quebec
by Matt Caputo/Correspondent
Skidmore College junior forward Dave Dupuis did a lot more than hunt for goals growing up as a young hockey player in a remote part of Quebec.
When his parents got home from work or on free weekends, the family would often hunt and fish for their own food. In fact, the Kuujjuag, Quebec, native even hunted wolves as a youngster growing up in the town of just 2,375 people.
“There’s not too, too much to do,” Dupuis said. “But for me, it’s probably harder to score a goal than it is hunt wolves. … It all has to do with migration.”
Besides the fishing and hunting, hockey is also popular in Kuujjuag, an Inuit community. Growing up, Dupuis didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play competitively. Most of the hockey was played at the Kuujjuag Forum, the area’s only indoor rink and one that Dupuis’ father, Jean, helped get constructed. However, people commonly played hockey on the icy roads in front of their homes.
“It’s very popular among the Inuits and it’s gotten more popular over the years,” Dupuis said. “There’s a lot of raw talent up there. Hockey has always been a popular sport to watch. I think some people didn’t have the means to play, but not people who have better help getting equipment and getting involved in playing.
“I was about 3 or 4 four years old when I got on skates, but I didn’t really play organized hockey until I moved to Montreal when I was 12 or so,” he added. “Kuujjuag had a team that played in the international pee-wee tournament in Quebec City, but that was the only time we really competed; the rest was pretty much just scrimmage hockey.”
Three years later, Dupuis was drafted into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. The opportunity was one he’d hoped for, but he was cautious. He spent 48 hours with the team, the maximum allowed for him to retain his NCAA eligibility. Taking the advice of former NHL player Joe Juneau — who’d recently started a hockey development program in Kuujjaug — Dupuis focused more on school and declined three call-ups to the “Q” in the 11th grade.
“I honestly wanted to go there; I think it’s a dream for every kid in Quebec, but things changed,” Dupuis said. “I never really thought about my education until after the camp.”
The next leg of his journey took Dupuis to the Kent School, a private institution in Connecticut. Once there, Dupuis repeated his junior year and completed high school there.
“I visited Kent a few times and really enjoyed my time there,” Dupuis said. “I really liked Coach (Matt) Herr and the competition level there, I thought, was really good. You had guys that were older and had a different maturity level.”
Hockey at Kent was different from playing back in Quebec. The biggest thing that stood out for Dupuis was the difference in number of games played.
“In Quebec, a midget team will play 60 or 70 games, while we played like 22 games at prep school,” he said. “That was hard to adjust to.”
Taking Juneau’s advice, Dupuis decided college would be the best way for him to continue his career. He took a quick liking to the Saratoga, N.Y., area and bought into the program at Skidmore College when coach Neil Sinclair recruited him. Prior to entering Skidmore, Dupuis took some courses with fellow Thoroughbreds junior Vlad Gavrik, in preparation for the college workload he’d soon undertake.
“We took classes over the summer just to give us the feel of what Skidmore would be like,” Dupuis said. “It gave us a sense of how much support we’d get to be well-adjusted at Skidmore.”
In his freshman season of 2010-11, Dupuis totaled six points on three goals and three assists in 25 games. As a sophomore, he collected five assists and helped the Thoroughbreds improve their record by three wins.
This year, Dupuis’ ice time has been rather limited, but he’s managed to score two goals in seven games. “I suffered a concussion in the first game of the season and I missed five or six games, but other than that, everyone’s been playing a regular shift,” he said. “I got a lot of rest and good support.”
The Thoroughbreds entered the new year with a record of 5-5-2. At 4-4-1 in the ECAC East, they’re among a logjam of teams chasing first-place Norwich, the No. 1 team in the country, and looking to rebound from two loses prior to the Christmas break.
“We’ve been playing pretty well and I think we’ll be doing well moving forward,” Dupuis said. “We’ve got a good team and we can beat the top-ranked teams when we want to. We can be one of those teams.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of New York Hockey Journal.