The view from number 19’s bedroom is breathtaking.
Looking out onto the Pacific Ocean from the upper floor of Joffrey Lupul’s Newport Beach house, even a diehard Edmontonian can easily understand why a born and bred Albertan, now an NHL Toronto Maple Leafs forward, has made California his permanent home. The sliding glass doors of the bedroom are open and a seductive Santa Ana wind embraces the patio in warmth. Desert and ocean aromas mingle and beckon. Waves crest on the sandy beach that is his front yard.
If you sigh while standing there, caught up in the romance of it all, you can’t be blamed. It’s had the same effect on number 19.
Lupul, or “Loops” to his friends and team mates, fell in love with Newport Beach during his short lived stint with the Anaheim Ducks and chose to make the ocean front his permanent home despite being traded to the Edmonton Oilers shortly after having set up house in California. After one season in Edmonton, Lupul was traded to Philadelphia. Next came a trade to Toronto. Despite all of that, Lupul returns to his permanent home on the very edge of the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s the lifestyle here that really drew me to it. Everyone lives outside. It’s warm weather all year round. I’m outside everyday, running, biking.” Lupul says this with a sense of absolute wonderment and gratitude at his life, his luck. But don’t think this Edmonton son has abandoned his hometown or his Alberta roots.
“Yeah, I love it here. But Edmonton will always be my hometown. I get home every year to spend time with my family and friends. It’s not easy with the scheduling but seeing them as much as possible is pretty important to me. Sometimes they come to where I’m playing. My brothers, my dad. Whenever I can get them here. When they can. And I’m in constant contact with them on the phone. Between playing in the east and having a home on the west coast and my family being in my hometown, it can be rough. They are important to me. We all make an effort to be together.”
Joffrey Lupul with his father, Edmonton lawyer Craig Lupul
For an explanation of his rather unique name, one must look no further than Joff’s father, Edmonton lawyer Craig Lupul.
“I got the name while taking first year English 200. We were studying Chaucer. My prof was English and he said the correct pronunciation of Geoffrey Chaucer was Joffrey not Jeffrey. I changed the spelling to Joffrey all by myself to save him a lifetime of mispronunciations. So I named him after my favorite (Scottish) poet. My life long buddy says “Scottish poet my ass, he named him after his favorite scotch.” Years later I saw there was a gas plant off HW 2 called Joffre. Sometimes I tell Joff I named him after a gas plant.”
It’s worth noting that this same sense of humour has been passed on to number 19. Affable and surprisingly humble with a dry wit, 28 year old Lupul’s intellect is immediately obvious in conversation, even if somewhat hidden beneath an initially shy demeanor. There is nothing aloof about him and anything you’ve seen on your TV screen to the contrary simply isn’t who he really is. Warm, friendly, personable and immediately likable in person, if Lupul seems awkward or distant in interviews or post game media scrums, his shyness is to blame. Yes, ladies, Joff is a striking young man. His dark curls, almond eyes and olive skin immediately evoke the image of Michelangelo’s famous “David”. But spend five minutes speaking with him and that fades away. Beneath it is a very honest, very true to himself and to his sport athlete.
“The hockey player “image” thing, that’s not what I’m into. I just want to play hockey the best I can. I’m about the work ethic of the game. That’s what is most important to me. I love this game and I love what I do. That’s what drives me on, not the celebrity of it. Not awards. Just a pure love of the game.”
Joffrey Lupul is no dumb jock, no pretty boy with a hockey stick, as is evidenced by both his on ice performance and the occasional biting, somewhat sarcastic comments he makes via his Twitter profile, @jlupul. Remarking on everything from “trading massage tables with Pronger” (a joke sure to elicit a guffaw from any informed NHL fan) to preparing an entire turkey dinner for visiting family, to his latest favorite emerging musician – (he has attended Bonaroo for five consecutive years and travels to Coachella with his dad every summer), Joff can easily be defined as the NHL’s “renaissance man”. He cooks, is an avid reader, plays a mean acoustic guitar, has experimented with his own clothing line and even had a guest appearance in an episode of the now defunct cable series “Entourage”.
“They cut my scene,” he says with a laugh. For whatever reason, he finds this quite comical.
Did we forget to mention that Lupul is also a 2012 NHL All Star and served as assistant captain to his All Star team? He is in the middle of the best season of his hockey career having banked an impressive 59 points for the season as of the date of this article. Even this accomplishment doesn’t throw Loops for a loop.
“I’m playing with Kessel. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without him, without the team. It’s a team effort. I’m benefitting from being part of a really great team. And a great coaching team. It’s the team.”
Bring up the possibility of the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy, the annual award given to the NHL Player who leads the league in scoring points at the end of the regular season, and Lupul shoots the topic down immediately. “That’s a long way off. There are a lot of games between now and the end of the season. I’m focused on now.”
It is no surprise that living in the now is paramount to his psyche and to his current success. Having come back from a debilitating back problem and a blood infection that resulted in daily medical supervision, health and strength are his ongoing focus. Despite the difficult year off ice and the critics who said he would never play a game again, Lupul remained positive, as did his family. Not only did Lupul’s confidence never diminish, it has increased with the trials of the past two years. There is no denying that Joffrey Lupul is stronger, faster, better than he has ever been.
“A nurse came to my home everyday. Everyday I had a nurse at my home checking things. It really wasn’t great, being housebound. I lost an incredible amount of weight but I wasn’t listening to what critics were saying. I was just…. getting healthy. Focusing on my health and healing and getting better. I worked hard. I wasn’t giving up. My dad and my mom and my brothers… my entire family and friends…everyone supported me through that. We made it through that. I never doubted that I would play again. I just didn’t listen to what was being said. Or to certain people who said I couldn’t cut it.”
Neither did his dad who never answered questions about Joff’s health with anything but “he’ll be fine. We’re taking care of it.”
That contact with and support of family is a vital part of Lupul’s life. Although his parents divorced when he was too young to remember them being together, both Joff’s mother and father, as well as his extended family, have been vital to his success. Supportive and closely knit, Lupul’s family not only encourage him to be the best he can be but keep him grounded and humble. No special exceptions are made for this NHL All Star.
Lupul with his cousins at his family’s summer home in Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
“My dad, my mom – I know what they expect of me. Same thing my mom expects of my brothers. Same thing my dad has always expect of me. I don’t get special treatment.”
What example would he like to set for his younger brothers? Lupul once again expresses humility.
“My brothers? Not much I can teach or pass onto them that they don’t already know. I mean, my brothers are great guys, doing their own thing. I’m proud of them. They don’t need me to teach them anything. I guess the only thing I could be an example for is having a good work ethic. Yeah. Work ethic. That’s important but they already have that.”
When questioned about comments stating he’s “not really” from Edmonton but instead a Fort Saskatchewan alumni, Lupul shrugs it off.
“It’s kind of ridiculous for anyone to suggest that. My dad lived in Edmonton and I played hockey in Edmonton the entire time I was growing up. I grew up cheering for the Oilers. My dad’s home was my home, too. I mean, I played for the Oilers for a season and that was a dream when I was growing up and playing hockey. I’m from Edmonton and from Fort Saskatchewan as far as I’m concerned. It’s all the same. In Fort Saskatchewan we cheered for the Oilers. It’s all hometown. All of it.”
Given that statement, it’s no surprise that when Joff was looking for a way to give back he decided on a charity golf tournament held in his hometown to benefit his hometown.
“Stolli (NHL player and longtime friend, Jarrett Stoll) was holding a tourney in Saskatoon every year. I saw the numbers, what the event was bringing in for charity. It was pretty impressive so I thought ‘I can do this. I can bring in those numbers for a good cause.’”
Joff’s desire to give back, to express his love for and loyalty to his hometown resulted in the “Joffrey Lupul and Friends Charity Golf Tournament” which has raised over $300,000 for local charities including “North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper” and “Change for Children”. Lupul is excited about the 2012 tournament, scheduled to take place August 30th at Blackhawk Golf Course.
“The focus of dollars raised for the 2012 tourney will be funding community water quality monitoring programs, youth water quality education programs , clean drinking water projects, and poverty eradication both here and abroad” reads the press release.
“We want to make this our most successful year to date…… Lets beat the $70,000 netted last year!”
Even when confronted with the scope of his charitable contribution, Lupul is ever humble.
“I do my part for the tournament but there are lots of people who put in the really hard work. Glenn Isaac, my dad, my family and friends – they all volunteer and my NHL friends always come out. It wouldn’t happen, it wouldn’t be successful without them. I’ve got the easy part.”
In case you were wondering, Lupul’s handicap is 10. When asked of his dad’s handicap, Lupul is sheepish.
“I don’t know. I just know I beat him.”
The humility suddenly fades and for a moment number 19 is a kid relishing taking the old man to task on a golf course. And just as with everything else during our interview, Lupul says this with a glint in those almond shaped eyes.
“Yeah, I beat him. But, you know, he’s still pretty good.”
You don’t need to placate him, Joff. After all, he named you after a gas plant.