Rangers’ Matt Rempe taking fighting lessons from former NHL heavyweight

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
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Before Matt Rempe headed home to Alberta for the summer, the New York Rangers forward listed all the things he planned to improve on this offseason in a conversation with reporters at breakup day. That included one skill that brought him the most notoriety as an NHL rookie in 2023-24.

Fighting.

True to his word, Rempe is trying to improve his on-ice pugilistic skills and has incorporated the help of someone who knows a thing or two about the subject. Former NHL heavyweight Georges Laraque.

The 12-year NHL veteran posted on X, formerly Twitter, and Instagram photos of himself working with Rempe and Tyrel Bauer, a Winnipeg Jets defenseman prospect, on the finer points of fighting.

“If you thought Rempe was a problem this year in the [NHL], wait till you see him this coming season,” Laraque wrote in his post.

Rempe burst on to the NHL scene in February when the 22-year-old dropped the gloves on his first NHL shift with Islanders tough guy Matt Martin in front of 79,000 fans outdoors at MetLife Stadium. He proceeded to fight in five of his first seven games, including bouts with Ryan Reaves of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nic Deslauriers of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Later in the season, the 6-foot-8 forward engaged with Kurtis MacDermid as part of a wild line brawl to start the Rangers game against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on April 3.

All told, Rempe racked up 71 penalty minutes in 17 NHL games and a four-game suspension for elbowing Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler on March 11.

Those are the kinds of numbers Laraque can relate to. Now, 48, Laraque retired in 2010 with 1,126 penalty minutes in 695 regular-season games.

So, yeah, Laraque probably can teach the rambunctious Rangers forward a thing or two.

“I also ant to work on the fighting, I want to be the guy,” Rempe explained in June. “I really enjoy that part of the game, so I want to continue to work on that.”

Related: What we learned about Rangers through 1st week of NHL free agency

Matt Rempe prepares for 2nd Rangers season with help of Georges Laraque

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Though Laraque is most known for his fighting in the NHL, he carved out an important role for four teams because he could play, as well as drop the gloves. He had 13 goals and 29 points in 2000-01 with the Edmonton Oilers and 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) for the Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006-07.

Laraque used his 6-foot-4 frame to be an effective forechecker and physical presence even when not fighting.

That’s an important example for Rempe to follow. Rangers coach Peter Laviolette has emphasized that Rempe can be a very good player and will be trusted more as he develops every facet of his game. It showed when Rempe scored New York’s first goal of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs after driving to the net and hammering home a centering pass in Game 1 of the first round against the Washington Capitals.

And that’s Rempe’s goal this summer because he has big plans for 2024-25 and beyond.

“I want to bring more to the table. I want to be a guy that can play 8-12 minutes every single night,” Rempe explained. “I want to be really good defensively. I want to eventually be a penalty killer. But I just have to earn all these things. I have to work on my skating, work on my skills, every part of the game.”

As Rempe noted, “being a sixth-round pick, I’ve always had to out-work, out-work, out-work … that’s my mindset.”

And it’s continuing this summer, where pilates and fighting lessons both have their place in his schedule.

An improved Rempe skating on a fourth-line now centered by the rugged Sam Carrick, perhaps with another towering wing, Adam Edstrom, on the other side, could be a big part of the Rangers lineup next season.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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