The NHL toughs guys have lost another..
By now if you are any kind of hockey or NHL fan you have heard of the very sudden death of Rick Rypien who had just signed a free agent deal with the Winnipeg Jets. Rypien was a player who put his full heart and soul into every play and every moment he was on that ice.
Even the most casual Vancouver Canucks fans remember that Rypien was the guy who no matter what always stood up for his teammates, even if that meant fighting a guy almost twice his size “Ripper” did it all as a man NHL fans called one of the toughest guys in the league today.
Rick Rypien was another one of those “he’ll never make it” kids. Early on he showed he wasnt afraid of anything or anyone and that ethic helped get a job in the WHL with the Regina Pats. In 3 seasons in “The Dub” with the Pats Rick could do everything from scoring(47 G) to fighting anyone who stood in his way as he went on to rack up 491 PIM. Rypien also showed leadership skills and the Pats named him team Captain, won the team MVP award once, the Molson Cup award for most 3 star selections & was named the teams “most popular player”.
After junior it was off the AHL and the Manitoba Moose, this is where Vancouver Canucks fans first saw the guy with the big heart. In 2005 Rick signed with the Canucks and scored his 1st NHL goal on Dec. 21st, 2005 after being called up to the big club. After his 1st leave from the club many believed all of his issues where a thing of the past in these last 2 seasons but after an altercation with a fan in Minnesota a 2nd leave of absence was granted allowing rumors to swirl.
In March, Rypien returned to the game of hockey albeit with the Manitoba Moose. It may have not been the NHL but this allowed Rick to have a stable place to play and somewheres he was familar with. Rick Rypien played his final hockey game on May 1st, 2011 – A Rd. 2 Playoff Game between the Moose and the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Things looked to be on the upswing when on July 2nd Ripper signed a free agent deal with the Winnipeg Jets, showing a commitment to a group of owners who had given him his 1st pro chance. Unfortunately Jets fans will never get to experience the “Ripper” like Canucks fans were able to. It hurts to know that I guy I personally met was friendly and joked with at various Canucks charity events was hurting so much inside. Vancouver Canucks fans embraced him and wanted to help at every turn, the franchise even helping out by giving Rick leaves from the team and the game of hockey.
Only hours after his death, Canucks fans flocked to Rodgers Arena and started a tribure to honour Rypien and his life. I drove past coming home late from work and saw that several written messages adorned a pillar on the grounds of his former NHL home. Some tea-candles had been placed in a pattern to read “R37R”, his intiails, surrounding his jersey number. In a way it reminded me of when Luc Bourdon was killed and a memorial was set up outside the then General Motors Place. Canucks fans are some of the most passionate fans I know, but they also are some of the most giving. I sure when I drive past later tonight that tribute will be much larger.
Rick Rypien was one of those players you loved to have on your team and wearing your colors, but also a guy you despised as a member of an opposing teams fan base. Rick Rypein will be sorely missed by the hockey world.
P.S. There is a planned “celebration” of Rick’s life & career for 2 PM, Wednesday August 17th, 2011 outside Rogers Arena. If you can make it, I suggest going.