New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe fights on first NHL shift

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Monday, February 19, 2024

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Rangers rookie forward Matt Rempe made history Sunday, becoming the first player to make his NHL debut in a regular-season outdoor game.

On his first shift at MetLife Stadium, Rempe tried to make an impression on the New York Islanders, too, with a fight against winger Matt Martinin the Rangers' 6-5 overtime victory.

After the win, Rempe said Martin offered to fight him and that Martin told him afterwards that he had a longer reach than fighting former NHL All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara.

"Rempe came in here and provided exactly what we wanted him to do," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Kudos to Martin to giving him his first one up here. It was a heck of a fight on a memorable day for him, dropping the gloves with a player that's a real tough customer."

Rempe was called up from the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack after the Rangers lost veteran winger Blake Wheeler to a leg injury Thursday night. Wheeler will miss at least the rest of the regular season.

Rempe, a 21-year-old center listed at 6-foot-7, played the past two seasons with the Wolf Pack. The Calgary native was drafted in the sixth round in 2020 by the Rangers.

Rempe took the traditional "rookie lap" alone before the rest of the Rangers came out for their warmup skate at the home of the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets.

Just 1:29 into the first period, Rempe lined up across from Martin and the two dropped the gloves off the faceoff. Rempe used his reach to land a few punches on Martin. Neither player went down to the ice as the linesmen eventually intervened to end the tussle.

It was the first fight in an NHL outdoor game since Washington's Anthony Mantha and Carolina's Jordan Martinooksquared off last season at their Stadium Series game in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the first fight in a regular-season Rangers vs. Islanders game since November 2021.

Rempe is only the second player in NHL history to play his first game with a new team outdoors, following Ron Hainsey with the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2017 Stadium Series matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Rempe said his mother and two sisters flew in for his NHL debut. On Friday after the Rangers' skate, he said he was looking forward to debuting against the Islanders outdoors.

"I play a hard, physical game that runs on adrenaline, so I'm going be juiced up to the max. I think I'd be buzzing out there. How can you not be going, with all the fans and playing outdoors? Like, this is pure hockey. It's unreal," he said.

His Rangers teammate Jimmy Vesey said a player making their first appearance in an outdoor game is one to remember.

"I'd probably just say that it was the coolest NHL debut I've seen so far," Vesey said.

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