The Misadventures of Matt Rempe: A timeline of the rookie’s wild year

New York Rangers' Matt Rempe (73) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Ryan Reaves (75) fight during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (CP)

New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe has logged only 10 games in the big leagues. He’s spent just 56 minutes total on NHL ice to this point. Yet, somehow, the six-foot-seven, 241-pound bruiser has been among the league’s most-discussed figures since his debut in late February.

After a tumultuous first month under the lights, Rempe has already become one of the game’s most polarizing figures, too — some adoring his attempt to revive a heavier, old-time brand of hockey, others seeing a young player being reckless with his own health and the health of others in the league.

The 21-year-old will now have some time to reflect on his approach, as the elbow he landed on New Jersey Devils defender Jonas Siegenthaler’s head has earned him a four-game suspension, as announced by the NHL’s department of player safety on Tuesday.

It was far from the first time Rempe has been at the centre of debates around the game. Through his 10 games and 56 minutes, the rookie has fought four times, amassed 54 penalty minutes and delivered at least two questionable checks to opponents’ heads. 

He leads the Rangers in penalty minutes and majors, despite not playing the first four-and-a-half months of the season — for context, Rangers captain Jacob Trouba ranks second on the team, with 52 minutes. He’s played 50 more games than Rempe this season. League-wide, the Blueshirts rookie has led the league in penalty minutes and majors since he made his debut, and neither next-ranked mark is particularly close.

As Rempe Mania grinds to a halt, after perhaps spinning just a bit out of control, here’s a look at the timeline of the rookie’s chaotic NHL run:


Given how bizarre Rempe’s brief run of big-league stardom has been, it should come as no surprise that his NHL debut was an odd one, too.

The 2020 sixth-round pick’s first-ever outing in a Rangers sweater came in late February, under the MetLife Stadium lights, making Rempe the first player in league history to debut in an outdoor game. 

He wasted little time in making his presence known — a minute-and-a-half into the game, on his first shift, Rempe lined up across from veteran heavyweight Matt Martin and dropped the gloves.

After the tussle was broken up by the refs, Rempe threw his arms in the air, spurring on the crowd as he skated over to the box. 

He finished the night with 4:26 minutes of ice as an NHLer, and his first bout.


After an uneventful second outing that saw Rempe log a quiet five minutes against the Dallas Stars, the rookie was back in the headlines after the third game of his career.

Playing in his second tilt against a Rangers rival — this time against the New Jersey Devils, for Rempe’s first Battle of the Hudson River — the rookie looked intent on making an immediate impact yet again. Two-and-a-half minutes into the game, he tagged Jersey’s Nathan Bastian with a rough check to the head that left the winger down on the ice with trainers holding towels to his face, tying to stop the bleeding.

It happened along the wall in the Devils’ zone: goaltender Nico Daws fired the puck around the boards from behind his cage toward Bastian, who paused with his head down, waiting for the puck to arrive between his feet. As it did, Rempe did too, after the rookie hopped over the boards and beelined straight for the unsuspecting Bastian, before catching him with a shoulder to the head. Rempe briefly got into it with Siegenthaler, who took issue with the hit and ate a few quick shots from the rookie before the refs intervened.

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Rempe was handed a match penalty, ejected from the game with 13 seconds of ice-time and 17 penalty minutes. As he left, he put a hand to his ear, egging on the booing Jersey crowd.

Said former NHLer Ken Daneyko — who racked up more than 2,500 penalty minutes during his own lengthy career as an NHL heavyweight — on the MSG broadcast: “I mean, I know he’s a big, tough, strong kid, had a fight his first shift against the Islanders — this is uncalled for. It really is.”

Rempe’s head coach, Peter Laviolette, backed his rookie.

“That’s just a big man,” Laviolette said post-game of Rempe and his hit on Bastian. “Everything is down, there’s nothing that’s up, never lifted his arm. I’m glad [Bastian] came back and played and was not hurt from that. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, but it’s just tough. He’s a big guy. He was full steam ahead and kept everything down, tried to go through the body and I’m sure he hit everything. It’s a tough call.”


Avoiding supplementary discipline for the Bastian hit, Rempe was back in the lineup two nights later to face another division rival.

Once again, he made quick work of getting into the game — three minutes in, Rempe squared off with Philly’s own resident pugilist, Nicolas Deslauriers. The pair teed off on each other for some time, the crowd on its feet, before the 33-year-old Deslauriers tossed Rempe to the ice.

Later that night, Rempe got on the board with his first career NHL goal, posting up in front of the Flyers net and finding himself on the end of a Braden Schneider point shot that deflected off Barclay Goodrow’s stick, off Rempe’s leg and past netminder Samuel Ersson.

Rempe finished the night with 5:16 minutes of ice, the fight and the game-winning goal.


Twenty-four hours later, Rempe found himself in a familiar spot. 

With his Rangers facing one more Metropolitan Division opponent on the second half of their back-to-back, there was the rookie, two minutes in, lining up across from Mathieu Olivier with his gloves skittering off across the ice. The pair traded heavy shots before Olivier, too, tossed the rookie down to finish things off.

Again, Rempe followed up his fight with a somewhat fortuitous appearance on the scoresheet, bumping the puck to linemate Adam Edstrom and winding up with his first career assist as Edstrom took the puck to the net and scored with a pass that deflected off a Blue Jackets defender and in.

Rempe finished with 4:58 minutes, a fight and his second point.


A quiet sixth appearance in Rangers colours — another meeting with Columbus, which saw Rempe skate a career-high 7:42 — brought the Calgary native to his first Hockey Night in Canada.

Rempe arrived in Toronto already a hot topic through six NHL appearances, partly due to his on-ice fireworks, partly because many wondered if it was time for someone in the Rangers room to tell the rookie — who at this point sported two black eyes — to pace himself.

He did to start off, but late in the second period, Rempe was at the centre of it all yet again, charging across the Maple Leafs zone to tag defender Ilya Lyubushkin with a heavy hit in the corner, knocking the rearguard out of the game. Said a perturbed Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe of the hit on his defender post-game: “He comes a long way, leaves his feet, hits him the head. Injury.”

With six minutes left, Toronto’s own heavy-hitter, Ryan Reaves, got his own shot at Rempe, sending the Scotiabank Arena crowd into a frenzy. Notably, before the rookie engaged, he looked back to the bench, seemingly waiting for the green light, before turning back to Reaves and commencing with the trading of blows.

Rempe finished the night with 5:56 minutes of ice and his fourth fight in seven games.


The rookie skated through two more quiet appearances — against Florida and St. Louis, the latter of which saw him log a career-high 11:08 minutes of ice — before arriving back at another rivalry tilt with the Devils. It was also, of course, his first game against New Jersey since his polarizing hit on Bastian a couple weeks prior.

However, in what was maybe the first game in which a Rempe fight was expected — given what transpired in the teams’ prior meeting — this time, there was no bout. Instead, in the final minute of the second period — just after Erik Gustafsson had scored the Rangers’ second goal of the night — Rempe delivered yet another dangerously high hit.

The collision came in the neutral zone as Siegenthaler — who’d tangled with Rempe briefly last time the two teams met — collected the puck and skated toward the boards. Rempe charged the defender and caught Siegenthaler with an elbow to the head, sending the blue-liner to the ice. Unsurprisingly, a scrum ensued, the officials protecting Rempe as Devils players tried to get at him.

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New Jersey’s Kurtis MacDermid was especially incensed, but was held back by the officials as he tried to take on Rempe.

“I mean, I knew about the hit on Bastian going into this game. First shift, I asked him — there’s a bit of a code, and I thought he would’ve answered that,” MacDermid said after the game. “I don’t know what he was told, but he said no. You know, after a hit like that, it kind of goes without saying you should answer the bell in some way, be a man about it. Then the game goes on, he throws another hit like that, gets kicked out, possible suspension. 

“There’s a right way to go about things and a wrong way. You know, I lost a lot of respect for him tonight.” 

The rookie drew even more ire from the Devils for his actions as he was escorted off the ice, waving goodbye to the Jersey players after being handed five minutes for elbowing and a 10-minute misconduct for the headshot on Siegenthaler. On Tuesday, it was announced that he’ll miss the Rangers’ next four games as a result of his actions.

In all, through his 10 games and 56 minutes, Rempe has fought four times, delivered at least two questionable hits, and, while endearing himself to some with his willingness to take on the league’s heavies, has rubbed others in the game the wrong way given his antics as he left the ice Monday.

“He’s a young kid in this league,” MacDermid said of Rempe’s gesture as he was tossed from Monday’s game. “He has a lot to learn still. You don’t do things like that your first year in the league.”

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