By Jason Klau
The life of Rick Rypien, the former Canuck who had just signed a deal with the recently reinstated Winnipeg Jets this offseason, ended prematurely this past Monday. He was just 27 years old.
Rypien was prepared to make a fresh and new start in Winnipeg after some controversy with Vancouver last season.
The brutally-tough enforcer has dealt with personal demons in his past, as he had previously taken two indefinite leaves of absense during his career. He also served a six-game suspension for an incident involving a fan. Shown just below is the video of the incident for those who haven't seen it:
Rypien definitely had some rage. I must emphasize that this is in no way an attempt to tarnish his name in anyway, I am just showing a video of an incident involving him.
Rypien would return for a few games after his suspension before taking a leave of absense. He would then return to the Canucks' minor league affiliate, the Manitoba Moose (who play in the same arena his what-would-be new team, the Winnipeg Jets, are set to play in) where he scored a game winning goal in their most recent playoff run.
Many have speculated that Rypien's death was a suicide. Some reports have said that he had hung himself, but it is not yet known for sure.
Either way, he is the second NHL tough guy to pass away this offseason, the first being Derek Boogard, who passed away after mixing Oxycodone with Alcohol. Boogard's death was ruled accidental.
In taking a look back at what once was, Rypien was as tough as they came in the NHL. He was a strong fighter, who would take on anyone, no matter the size. Listed at 5'11, 185lbs, Rypien took on much bigger guys without fear, and without problem. Here he is beating Boris Valabik, who is listed as 6'7 245 lbs:
Rick literally fought his way through every level of hockey. In three seasons with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, where he played his junior career, Rypien amassed just under 500 penalty minutes. And although he was no slouch offensively at that level, he went undrafted.
After his final season in the juniors ended, the Vancouver Canucks decided to take a shot with him. They brought him into the orgaization, where he finished the year in the minors. In 2005-06, his first full professional season in minors, Rypien tallied himself 122 penalty minutes in just 49 games. He also saw his first five games of NHL action, even tallying his first career goal.
Rypien continued to split time between the Canucks and the Manitoba Moose over the next few years. His goal was to make it full-time, in the NHL, and it looked like he was finally going to get that chance with the Winnipeg Jets, who had signed a few guys from the former minor league team in the city, to NHL deals, including Rypien.
While it is probobly for the best that we will never know what demons he was dealing with, or, if the reports of suicide are correct, and what inevitably caused him to take such drastic actions, one thing is certain: Rick Rypien was a tough-as-nails hockey player who opitimized what it meant to do whatever it takes to make it to the NHL. Maybe he sometimes let his emotions get the best of him, but nobody could doubt that he truly cared for his teammates, and loved the sport that he played.