Matt Rempe’s NHL debut with Rangers in front of 79,600 fans a ‘dream come true’

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It’s going to be difficult for New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe to top this one.

Rempe became the first player to make his NHL debut in an outdoor game when the towering forward skated here Sunday in the Rangers’ 6-5 overtime win against the Islanders at MetLife Stadium in the 2024 Stadium Series.

That his debut coincided with a remarkable comeback victory and was played in front of 79,600 fans would be enough to make this an incredible day for the 21-year-old. But a rousing fight with Islanders veteran Matt Martin on his first NHL shift added to how special this all was for Rempe, too.

“It was awesome,” Rempe said postgame. “It was a lot of fun playing with [Adam Edstrom] and [Barclay Goodrow], get in there, forecheck and stuff. And get a huge win. It was a whirlwind of emotions and unbelievable.

“It was a dream come true.”

Related: Stadium Series notebook

Matt Rempe fights Matt Martin on first shift with Rangers

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

But what about that fight with Martin?

“I was patrolling the red line in warmies (warmups) and we were making eye contact with each other, and I know he’s a really tough customer and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s had a helluva career as a tough guy,” Rempe explained.

“That first shift, we lined up there and he told me congrats and asked me if I wanted it, and I said ‘Hell yeah!’ And I went, and that was awesome. A lot of fun, a good fight. It was surreal.”

That shift came right after Erik Gustafsson had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 1:28 into the game. One second later, Rempe’s mitts were hitting the ice and his fists were flying.

Rempe handled himself quite well in the fight. Afterward, the 6-foot-8 forward waved his arms in the air as the fans at MetLife roared their approval. In the penalty box, he had a big smile on his face as he and Martin talked things over.

“He was just telling me congrats on my first fight and game, told me to just enjoy it,” Rempe said. “He told me helluva fight. So, it was good. 

“He also told me he’s fought [Zdeno] Chara and he told me he thinks my arms are longer. That was cool.”

Rempe played nine shifts totaling 4:26. He missed one attempted shot, was credited with a hit and was 0-for-1 in the face-off circle.

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette was impressed.

“I thought Matt came in here and he did exactly what we wanted him to do,” Laviolette explained. “He provided some size and physicality and had some good shifts with his line in the offensive zone. … and it was a heckuva fight.

“He couldn’t have had a better night.”

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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