An unusual connection

Pat Rupp, Wes Fowler, and the missing link

By Marc Katz

When I covered the last half of goalie Pat Rupp’s career with the Dayton Gems, there was no reason for me to believe that he was linked to Wes Fesler, the former All-America football player and coach from Ohio State.

Seriously, how would I make that connection?

Rupp, born in 1942 in Detroit, played hockey. Fesler lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at Ohio State, but from 1928-30. He was born in Youngstown in 1908. He coached the OSU football team from 1947-50 and was fired after losing the legendary Snow Bowl game to Michigan, finishing the 1950 season.

(You probably are more familiar with the coach who followed him, Woody Hayes.)

Much later, after finishing his coaching career in Minnesota leading the Gophers in football, Fesler took a job with what was then IDS Financial services in Minneapolis.

That would have been my only clue, as I knew Rupp had his own IDS office in Dayton because I successfully invested with him once after his playing career was over, but I didn’t know Fesler also was an IDS employee.

“Pat met Wes Fesler at an Olympics luncheon some place,” Rupp’s widow, Kathy, says the other day. “He sat right next to him.”

I’m not certain Rupp knew who Fesler was then, but a friendship was struck, and Fesler became Rupp’s mentor in the business.

A quiet sort, Rupp never talked about Fesler that I remember, and I don’t recall seeing any Fesler pictures around Rupp’s IDS office or in his locker at Hara Arena.

Of course I’d love to talk with Pat about Fesler now, only the sad truth is the 12th annual Pat Rupp Memorial Golf Tournament will be played July 24 at NCR, which means Rupp was just 63 when he died from prostate cancer in 2006.

That was years after Fesler died in 1989, but there had been plenty of years I could have mined the connection, had I known.

Fesler, of course, had a historic college athletic career and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Despite the age difference, they must have connected as athletes.

Rupp’s playing career encompassed some glory times, as well.

While the bulk of Rupp’s career took place with the International Hockey League Gems—most of eight seasons, plus a one-game, un-retirement comeback later—he also played a game in place of injured Terry Sawchuk for the Detroit Red Wings in 1964 and with two United States Olympic teams, in 1964 and 1968.

Rupp’s hockey career began at age 19 when he left Detroit for Flin Flon, where he played two years of junior hockey before signing on with Philadelphia of the Eastern Hockey League.

That team loaned him to Detroit for a game in March of 1964 to fill in for the injured Sawchuk in an era when NHL teams played one goalie for most games—sometimes every one—in a season. Rupp lost to Toronto, 4-1.

Sawchuk, then 34, played in 53 of Detroit’s 70 regular-season games that season. Three times, in previous seasons, he was in the net for all 70 games.

Rupp also played in 1964 for the U.S. team in the Innsbruck, Austria, winter Olympics and shut out East Germany 8-0. The United States did not shut out another Olympics team until 1992.

Rupp joined the Gems in 1964 and caused a little stir when he made the U.S. Olympics team again for the 1968 winter games in Grenoble, France. Gems General Manager Lefty McFadden wondered how a guy he was paying to play could go back to an amateur game, as the Olympics were proposed to be then.

Rupp ended up playing—and returning to the Gems—content to make his home in Dayton with his wife and two children.

“He made a home here,” Kathy Rupp says. “He had friends. He had a chance to play other places, but he didn’t want to move around.”

In 1972, Kathy says Pat lost a big sale because the customer thought Rupp would move for hockey and wouldn’t be able to keep track of his financial job.

“He figured that one sale was worth what he was making in hockey,” Kathy says. “He retired [from hockey].”

The Rupps prospered and when Pat became ill, began thinking of others they could help.

Catholic Social Services called, and when Pat died, the tournament began. Last year, more than 100 golfers participated, raising more than $25,000 for the cause. The tournament is played at NCR Country Club and includes lunch and dinner and options for those who don’t want to play, just donate.

Kathy promises each year to have a first-class event, and as Pat’s history fades from memory, has added University of Dayton athletic “legends” to the agenda.

“He was really a quiet guy and didn’t talk much about himself,” Kathy Rupp says.

He did talk to Wes Fesler, though. I wish I had known that.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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