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Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

My Thoughts on Rick Rypien’s Death

About an hour ago I heard that Rick Rypien died today. Like many others I was shocked and saddened. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for tough guys who weren’t drafted but made it to the NHL anyway. Watching Rypien fight a bigger guy was sometimes a little like watching a fantasy scene in a cheesy movie, the one where some small kid finally works up the courage to take out the school bully. You can’t help but cheer for a guy like that.

As much fun as it was watching the  guy fight, he always seemed like a great guy on top of it. Now, I won’t pretend to know him personally, I’ve hardly met him, but in my experience you can tell a lot about a player from how the reporters treat him, and how he acts around his team mates right before the camera starts rolling, and from what I saw Rypien was funny, gracious, and despite the tough guy rep he was a great friend and team mate. When he had to leave the game in November the organization supported him like family, and he seemed genuinely excited to rejoin the Moose for the playoffs.

I’m sure in the weeks to come we’ll hear a fuller story of what happened, and we’ll probably hear from those closest to him, and I’m sure it will break my heart all over again, but for now, here’s my write up, via The Bleacher Report:

Rick Rypein was found dead in his Alberta home today at the age of 27. The news was confirmed by police and by James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

The Coleman, Alberta native recently signed a one year deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but he spent his six-year NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks.

Rypien had a reputation as a scrappy player, and pound for pound you would be hard pressed to find a tougher fighter in the league. Measuring in at only 5’11” he went undrafted, but joined the AHL’s Manitoba Moose in 2005. From there, what the hard hitting tough guy lacked in size, he made up for in heart.

“I always knew that if I worked hard enough – and I always felt something inside that told me I could do it – so if I worked hard enough I would get there,” Rypein told Canucks.com.

Rypien’s final season with the Canucks was cut short first by a suspension after an altercation with a fan, and again when, in November, he took a leave of absence from hockey, citing personal reasons. He eventually returned to the Manitoba Moose for a brief playoff run.

At the time of his return Rypien was excited about returning to hockey, saying that he was healthier and happier with his self than ever before.

Rypien taking on 6’7 Hal Gill in one of his most memorable fights.

“I’ve made a lot of gains as an individual,” he reported. “I got to really understand and have a relationship with myself, which I’ve never really had before.”

Although Rypien never announced publicly the specifics of the issues that kept him off the ice, he did insist that it was not related to substance abuse.

“I was dealing with a lot,” he said. “But I think at times I was trying to deal with it on my own a bit too much, and not reaching out for the support I did have out there, but now I’m more aware than ever that it’s OK to ask for help and people will help you.”

Moose teammates Kevin Connauton (@K_Nauts) Bill Sweatt (@billysweatt) have joined other NHLers in expressing their shock and sadness at losing not only a great player, but also a friend.

The Winnipeg Jets have released the following statement:

“We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick’s friends. We also appreciate all of the support that has come pouring in from Rick’s fans. Rick was a talented player with an extremely bright future. His hunger for the game made him a valued team member both on and off the ice. This loss has impacted us as more than just a hockey team.”

The Canucks organization has not yet made an official statement regarding Rypien’s unexpected death, but coming only two years after the tragic loss of Luc Bourdon it will be another sad day in Canuck nation.

Know a Canuck: Byron Bitz

The Canucks not only got a big, gritty winger when they signed Byron Bitz, they also did their part to ensure alliteration lovers and nickname givers have something to work with this summer. There’s Lord Byron, Blitz and, if he ever manages to play with Burrows, you’ll have Bits & Bites. Best sponsorship opportunity of the season.

The 27-year-old Saskatchewan native sat out last season when complications arose after a sports hernia surgery. He also missed most of the 2009-10 season, playing only seven games.

Bitz’s last full season was with the Boston Bruins, where he gained fans for his hard hitting style. Over two seasons he played 80 games, recording 16 points.

His signing also continues Canuck tradition of using the Florida Panthers like a second farm team. Bitz joins fellow ex-Floridians Roberto Luongo, Victor Oreskovich and Keith Ballard. At 6’5″, 215 pound, Bitz may even share some ice time with 6’3″ Oreskovich, pairing to make a very intimidating sandwich on the fourth line.

The right winger should provide the Canucks with some badly needed size, but his smarts also likely caught the eye of GM Mike Gillis. As a Cornell grad Bitz joins Tanner Glass and Aaron Volpatti as other recent Canucks with an Ivy league education. Gillis is known to target players who excel in the classroom as well as on the ice as part of his focus on working with players who aim to succeed in all aspects of their lives.

Overall, if he can prove that he’s over any nagging injuries Bitz should prove to be a solid replacement for departing Canucks Glass and Raffi Torres, providing a big dose of sandpaper.

Via: Bleacher Report

Why Europe Is Tamby’s Best Choice

The 27-year-old ex-Canucks winger Jeff Tambellini announced today that he has signed a three-year contract to play for Zurich of the Swiss League. While European hockey has a reputation as being the place players go when they can’t cut it in the big leagues, the move is the best choice for Tambellini.

The son of Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini spent the 2010-2011 season with his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks. There, he showed promise early in the season, recording 15 points in his first 21 games. He grew a reputation as the team’s good luck charm as fans noted that the Canucks had lost only one of twenty games with Tambellini in the lineup, compared to the teams 5-7-2 record without him.

However, this soon changed, as he went on to record only two points in his final 41 regular season games.

Despite retaining some favour with fans (I for one was heartbroken when I heard he was headed to Europe), many would be surprised to hear that he was targeted by the Swiss League soon after the Canucks finished their Cup run.

He is expected to play on the top line with big minutes and hopes to be one of the teams’ top scorers, a challenge he simply was not suited for in Vancouver where he spent the majority of his time on the fourth line.

“It’s stability and it’s a chance to play a different role over there,” Tambellini told Jim Jamieson of The Vancouver Province. “It’s on the big ice and playing a lot of minutes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

So why is the move the best choice for this former first-round draft pick?

Tambellini still has great offensive potential, he has amazing speed (does anyone else remember when he robbed Martin Erat of a crucial breakaway in Game 6 against Nashville?) and he knows how to score. He recorded 76 points in 57 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL in 2007-08.

He clearly excelled at the AHL level, but at 5’11, he was not suited for the third and fourth-line spots he was given in the NHL. He needs those top-line opportunities to perform. He could not earn them in the NHL, but given the right minutes, he will light up Swiss League scoreboards.

So good luck Tamby, you’ll be missed here in Vancouver, enjoy all the Swiss chocolate you can lay your hands on in Zurich.

Via: Bleacher Report

Riot Reflections

I walked around downtown this morning taking in all the damage that was done last night, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Thinking about last nights game and subsequent riot left me sick to my stomach, but the scenes I witnessed this morning warmed my heart.

I really thought that people who proclaimed that another ’94 riot was inevitable were wrong. After the Olympics I thought that as a city we were past all that nonsense, and although I was proved sadly wrong, in a way I think that when I said Vancouver was better than that I was right.

News has started to emerge that many of those arrested were from Montreal, Toronto and Seattle, possibly the same group who started trouble during the Olympics. Despite the jerseys seen on the news I still believe that the people doing the worst damage and the people who started this mess were not hockey fans, and for those that  were,well, they shouldn’t consider themselves fans any longer.

The people who started this came downtown to riot, because some people just like to cause chaos and have their picture taken. Once this atmosphere was created it was easy to draw in drunk revelers.

I severely hope that everyone responsible is caught and made examples of. The rest of the city has made it clear: These people do not represent us. Vancouverites are ashamed and embarrassed, and if you were involved no one thinks you’re cool. You do not look like a bad ass taunting cops and jumping through fire. No one thinks you “took a stand” against authority. You were not fighting for democracy or basic human rights, you saw a big crowd and a losing hockey team and you decided to bring out the worst in yourselves and your city. You looked like an idiot and everyone thinks you’re a jackass.

Vancouver will overcome this and show the world who we really are. I know this because of what I witnessed this morning.

I walked down Georgia at 9am, past the ruins of a torched Smartcar and the ashy remains of two cop cars, the burning smell still lingering in the air.

I continued down the next street where glass still littered the sidewalk, looking into an unrecognizable Blenz coffee shop where broken blinds still hung from the empty windowpanes, but here is where my day began to turn around.

City workers were handing out gloves and garbage bags, dozens of people brought brooms and shovels and they were cleaning up the streets.

By the time I left downtown, if you didn’t see the boarded up storefronts and burned garbage cans you would never know what had happened there only 12 hours ago. The streets of Granville were as clean as I had ever seen them.

What’s more is the amazing show of support Vancouverites had shown on plywood boards of the Bay. Hundreds of messages were left, telling the world that we were sorry, that this isn’t Vancouver, this isn’t hockey fans. This is not who WE are, but we apologize for those responsible.

These images may not make for the same scandalous television coverage as flaming cars, but they are what we should present to the world. This is the Vancouver I love and this is why the city will be okay.

So rioters, do your worst, because no matter how bad you make us look, real Vancouverites will always bounce back, stand proud, and make us look even better.

Stanley Cup 2011 – My Thoughts

As I watched the minutes tick down last night my heart broke a little, I haven’t been suffering for 40 years like some fans, I can’t say I’ve followed the team all that close for more than 5 years, but I’ve grown to love the team and the players on it. Not just for their hockey skills, but because these guys are genuinely great people.

I wanted them to win, I really thought that until last night they deserved to win, it would have been a magical story after 40 years.

Yet, I know that however much this city wanted a Cup, those boys on the ice wanted it more. Anyone could see it in their faces after the game.  They played through pain and in the face of critics, because that is what it takes to win a Cup. They came so close to greatness before letting it slip through their fingers.

Go Canucks!

So hearing supposed fans turn on their team so quickly makes me so sad. Anyone can cheer when their team is winning, but keeping the faith when you know the odds are against you takes real dedication.

I want everyone to remember that these boys gave us an amazing nine months. This was the best season this city has seen in 40 years, and I’d like to thank the team for that; it has been an amazing few months.

When you guys come back in October, just do your best, and I’ll be back doing my best to cheer you on, and I know the city will be too.