SPOTLIGHT: Joseph Rupoli

When it comes to critiquing movies and the actors who perform in them, Joseph Rupoli has spent more than enough time with his friends and fellow “huge movie nerds” to know what he’s talking about.

The same can be said when it comes to assessing what it takes to be a successful Ontario Hockey League defenceman – and a vocal veteran with the Rangers.

Entering his fourth season in the league, the former fifth-round pick of the Oshawa Generals is comfortable to verbalize his thoughts – whether it’s about the latest offerings on the silver screen and streaming platforms or a comment to get his teammates smiling.

“I just like being social with other people, whether it’s goofing around or being serious. I think that means I’m an extrovert?” Rupoli asked rhetorically, with a knowing smile.

With that kind of introspective, there’s obviously some thoughtfulness behind each word that comes out of his mouth – whether it’s to lighten the mood or make his on-ice approach to the game very clear.

“If you play sports quietly, you don’t know what your teammates are up to,” he said matter-of-factly, adding, “Even just letting teammates know what passes I want – either on the backhand or forehand – makes things easier for me and for them to know where my brain’s thinking.”

“I just make sure that I’m indicating to others what I’m doing so they understand and can catch on quicker when I’m in front of the net or in scrums.”

Having dressed in 22 games for the Rangers in 2019 after coming over in a trade with the Generals last January, Rupoli wasn’t able to record a goal to go along with his two assists in that span. But it was the very first experience of Rangers Nation that was more memorable than “lighting the lamp” could have been.

“Just standing in the middle of the ice and raising our sticks was incredible. You felt the crowd, the excitement,” he recalled of his first game at The Aud, an OT win that came courtesy of a Riley Damiani breakaway goal.

Rupoli readily admitted how lucky he feels to have played “for two great organizations”, but gives extra credit to his current teammates who, “from young guys to old guys, they’re active and communicating – which is great for a team to have.”

That environment has provided Rupoli with a level of comfort where he will readily offer his viewpoints of the latest movie or TV offerings if asked.

A recent flick that really impressed him? That would be the Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, which “was really interesting from start to finish. I loved it.”

What would he recommend passing on?

“The new IT movie. It was too long and the plot was kind of childish to the audience I thought it was going to present itself to,” he assessed.

Listing Matthew McConaughey, Mark Walhberg, Jason Statham, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling as his preferred actors – all for different reasons – Rupoli concedes that his viewing interests have matured with him.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’m more into the dramas and thrillers. Anything really that just keeps you guessing and on at the edge of your seat,” he said.

If there were ever to be a biopic on his life and career, the aforementioned genre is what it would fall under.

“I think drama would fill almost everyone’s hockey career though,” he said.

“For some players, it’s going on scoring droughts. For others, it’s not being in the lineup. But I just think the biggest thing is the ability to stay level-headed and making sure that those downs and ups don’t get too high or low.”

He credits his coaching staff – and their professional experience – for helping manage his personal ebbs and flows.

“McKee, Wideman, Karlsson … all three of them are incredible,” he said.

“For them to understand what it takes to be a defenceman at the next level, the habits, the routine, that all adds up and is good for me to know.”

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