It was three years ago to this day that the hockey community learned of the passing of former Vancouver Canucks enforcer Rick Rypien, at the tragically young age of 27. As is generally the case when such a sobering incident strikes, the natural reaction is a feeling of shock. How could this have happened? He seemed to have had so many things going for him.
In reality, no one is immune from the personal struggles that accompany anxiety, depression, and all other forms of mental illness. Individuals from all walks of life are susceptible to it, regardless of how successful or happy they may seem. We were reminded of this all too unfortunately when Robin Williams took his own life earlier this week.
We’ve come a long way as a society with regards to understanding, and accepting this reality, but it’d be foolhardy and naive to think that the stigma has completely dissipated. There are still those that think this makes you look weak, as if it’s an inherent character flaw that will prompt others to think of you differently.
Let today serve as a good reminder that there’s always someone out there – whether it be me, or someone else you may feel more comfortable reaching out to – that you can talk to, and that things are never really as bleak as they may seem. If you’d like to learn more or help the cause out, you can do so here (an initiative started by the Canucks organization to help spread awareness).
With that, here are some of the more beautifully and eloquently penned words remembering Rick Rypien from over the years.
“I’ll smile when I think of Rypien. It’s tough not to when you look back on some of memorable moments with the Canucks. Like when he took on Hal Gill or Boris Valabik despite the fact he was giving up more than six inches and 50 pounds to each of them. Or when he went toe-to-toe with Cam Janssens last season. Or the memorable three fights he had with Brandon Prust in one game when Prust was a member of the Calgary Flames.”
“Talking to my friends and other Canucks fans on-line, there was a selfish sense this summer that Rick Rypien’s memory was being misplaced. Every article we read of his life, struggles and untimely death mentioned “Rick Rypien – Winnipeg Jet.” Though he’d signed a contract over the summer with the Jets, owned by True North who used to own the Manitoba Moose (the only other professional club Rick Rypien ever played for), Rick Rypien was always ours in the minds of Canucks fans.”
“Rypien will be given the “former Canuck” label in all formal media reports because he signed with the Winnipeg Jets just under a month and a half ago, but that’s not right. The Vancouver Canucks were the only NHL team he ever suited up for. As far as I’m concerned, Rypien died a Canuck. Mind you, it doesn’t matter who he plays for, because this has nothing to do with hockey.”
“Part of Rypien’s memory will be his unfulfilled potential, but the lasting image should always be of a man whose heart was larger than his modestly sized body – the way he fought for and defended his teammates, even when it meant taking on giants, some of the scariest people in the NHL. Despite towering over him, they feared the flurry of fists the little guy could throw.”
“On the ice, Rick feared no one. Stood down to no one. Though smaller in stature than most other combatants, he welcomed all challengers. He played hockey with a brash physicality and fervor which Winnipeggers have adored for generations. Away from the rink, Rick was shy and quiet and stoic. Never did he want to be the centre of attention. A lot of that can be attributed to the kind of internal demons he was battling at the time. Nevertheless, he was a beloved member of the community.”
“I didn’t know Rypien; not personally. But he was important and special to me in that sort of strange, inexplicable fan with a favourite player kind of way. When I went to training camp in 2009, Rypien sat on the ice to stretch and looked exactly like a mermaid. Mermaid was probably the most ridiculous nickname in history for one of the toughest fighters in the league but that’s what I called him from then on. He was fun to watch, fighting guys much taller and heavier than he was and making it look graceful. He was fast and an underrated passer. I really thought he had the potential to be more than a fighter.”
Kevin Bieksa remembers Rypien:
The Vancouver Canucks remember Rypien:
RIP, Rick Rypien.