Too bad: Despite Rempe-mani popularity; his showbiz act doesn’t belong in NHL



Philadelphia Flyers’ Nicolas Deslauriers (44) and New York Rangers’ Matt Rempe (73) fight during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Philadelphia.

The NHL’s newest sensation is a 6-foot-7 slug who handles the puck like he’s trying to beat a snake to death with a tree branch.

But he fights and plays in New York City. So welcome to stardom, Matt Rempe.

It’s Rempe-mania. A stupid version of Lin-sanity. (Remember him? Nah, me neither.)


Studies have been done about how fighting damages the brains of hockey players. Many goons have died young. Some have committed suicide. Enforcers are very few in today’s NHL. It looked like hockey was past that.

But Rempe gets summoned from the minors, fights four times in eight games and it’s embraced as the return of old-time hockey.

Rempe is grabbing headlines. He’s in the highlights. His New York Rangers are legit Stanley Cup contenders, so that figures in.


The NHL never has been able to make any of its stars cross over to the mainstream. Not Wayne Gretzky, not anybody (beyond Gretzky’s cameo on soap opera “The Young and the Restless”).


But Rempe is the toast of Broadway. It’s not the cover of People magazine, but Rempe’s rapidly multiplying fame is disconcerting.

Ex-players in hockey’s media are firmly in Rempe’s corner. They exacerbate the hype.


The great majority of those ex-players avoided fighting at all costs. They might claim it wasn’t their job. But they were probably just scared.

Or smart. I’d never castigate somebody for not fighting. It’s dangerous. It betrays hockey’s speed and skill.


For me, fighting has no place in hockey. It’s uniquely Canadian, and that’s not a compliment.

“Everybody likes a good scrap.” Yeah, except the wives and children of hockey’s pugilists. They live with the aftermath.


Rempe barely plays. He averages less than five minutes of ice time. His talent doesn’t merit being in the NHL. He played just 13 seconds in the Rangers’ Feb. 22 game at New Jersey before being ejected for a high hit.

Rempe’s fights aren’t spontaneous. They’re mostly staged bouts against the usual suspects, Neanderthal pukes like Ryan Reaves and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Rempe’s brawls don’t spark the Rangers or help them win. They’re showbiz. The energy he provides is fleeting.


The Rangers had won six in a row before Rempe got summoned from the minors. They’ve lost three of their last four. That’s not because of Rempe. He barely plays and has made their fourth line useless. (It’s pretty useless without him. The Rangers need to add forward depth before Friday’s trade deadline.)

Rempe isn’t even a good fighter. His face looks like a cross between a bank robber and a raccoon. It’s been pumped full of black eyes.

Rempe serves no purpose but to satiate bloodlust. He’s the idol of the dolts in Madison Square Garden’s cheap seats, those most likely to commit crimes after the game ends.


But in hockey, unbelievably, that still can get you a job. (Maybe not so unbelievable: The NHL’s dean of discipline is former goon George Parros. It’s like letting a serial killer administrate death row.)

It’s the same league that let enforcer John Scott play in its 2016 All-Star event, then gave him that event’s MVP. It wasn’t fake like pro wrestling, but it wasn’t far off.


Rempe playing in the NHL has been romanticized as realizing his dream. If that’s true, it’s a dream dipped in excrement. Rempe was promoted from the minors ahead of more talented players, thus denying those players their dream.

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