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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.

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