Rick Rypien
Born May 16, 1984(1984-05-16)
Blairmore, Alberta, Canada
Died August 15, 2011(2011-08-15) (aged 27)
Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 194 lb (88 kg; 13 st 12 lb)
Position Centre
Shoots Right
Played for Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Manitoba Moose (AHL)
NHL Draft Undrafted
Playing career 2005–2011

Rick Rypien (born Rick Joseph Rypien on May 16, 1984) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who spent parts of six seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) with the Vancouver Canucks.

After a major junior career of four years with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, Rick was signed by the minor professional Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2005. The following season, he signed with the Canucks.

He spent six years with the organization, splitting time between the Canucks and Moose, their AHL affiliate.

Following the 2010–11 NHL season, Rick signed with the Winnipeg Jets, but he died before joining his new team.

Rick's death was preceded by a history of clinical depression which included two personal leaves of absence from the Canucks during his career.

A fourth-line player in the NHL, he was known for his hitting and fighting abilities.

Playing CareerEdit

Rick began his junior career in 2001–02 with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves of the Alberta Junior A Hockey League (AJHL), recording 22 points (12 goals and 10 assists) over 57 games.

During the season, he also debuted with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL), playing one game. Unselected in the annual WHL Bantam Draft, he earned a spot with the Pats as a walk-on.

During his three-year tenure with Regina, Rick served as a team captain. As a WHL rookie in 2002–03, he scored 18 points (6 goals and 12 assists) over 50 games. The following season, he improved to 45 points (19 goals and 26 assists) over 65 games.

In Rick's final year with the club, he recorded career-highs with 22 goals, 29 assists and 51 points. He received three team awards, being chosen as the most valuable player, the fans' choice as most popular player (Bill Hicke Award) and the Molson Cup champion, having received the most three star selections.

Undrafted out of junior, Rick was contacted by Craig Heisinger, general manager of the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Manitoba Moose in his last season with the Pats.

When his career with the Pats ended, Heisinger signed Rick to an amateur tryout for the remainder of the 2004–05 AHL season.

Rick recorded a goal and an assist over eight regular season games with the Moose, then helped the team to the Conference Finals of the 2005 playoffs with no points over fourteen contests. His play earned him an AHL contract to remain with the club for the 2005–06 season.

As a result, Rick attended NHL training camp with the Moose's parent club, the Vancouver Canucks.

On September 24, 2005, he was released from the Canucks' training camp roster and returned to the Moose. However, just over a month into his AHL season, he signed a two-way contract with the Canucks on November 9, 2005.

On December 19, 2005, Rick was called up by the Canucks and made his NHL debut two days later against the Edmonton Oilers.

In the first period of the contest, he scored his first NHL goal against goaltender Jussi Markkanen. It was his first shot on his first shift. The goal put the Canucks ahead 2–1; they ultimately lost the game 7–6. Rick registered six minutes and thirty seconds of ice time.

Playing in his fifth game with the club ten days later, Rick suffered a broken fibula against the Minnesota Wild. Upon recovering, he was returned to the Moose and finished the regular season with 15 points (9 goals and 6 assists) in 49 AHL games.

Rick dressed for an additional 13 playoff games with Manitoba; he recorded a goal and an assist as the Moose were eliminated in the second round by the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Competing for a roster spot during the Canucks' 2006 training camp, Rick injured his thumb in a fight during a game against the Anaheim Ducks, sidelining him for two months. After his recovery, he joined the Canucks in early-December 2006.

In his first game back against the Colorado Avalanche on December 2, 2006 Rick fought opposing forward Ian Laperriere. In the following contest against the Edmonton Oilers, he was injured once again, suffering a partially torn groin muscle.

By mid-February 2007, Rick recovered and was re-assigned to Manitoba where he spent the remainder of the season, recording 6 points (3 goals and 3 assists) in 14 games. He remained with the Moose to start the 2007–08 season, failing to make the Canucks' roster out of training camp, but within half-a-month, he was recalled by Vancouver.

Playing against the Detroit Red Wings on October 24, 2007, Rick broke a finger in his left hand. After being sidelined for 16 games, he was re-assigned to the Moose on December 4, 2007.

Splitting the remainder of the season between Manitoba and Vancouver, Rick was called up on two separate occasions (January 13–16 and February 26–April 8, 2008) and finished the regular season with 14 points (3 goals and 11 assists) in 34 AHL games and 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists) in 22 NHL games.

In the 2008 Calder Cup playoffs, Rick went pointless in six games as the Moose were eliminated in the first round by the Syracuse Crunch. During the off-season, he re-signed as a restricted free agent with the Canucks on July 23, 2008.

The following season, Rick made the Canucks' lineup out of training camp for the first time in his career. After scoring two goals in the first five games in 2008–09, he suffered a sports hernia on October 19, 2008. Upon recovering, he was granted an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

The Canucks organization alluded to Rick's history of injuries as the main reason for him not returning to the team.

Assistant general manager Lorne Henning stated that "It's just wearing on him now - it's frustrating for him. He just has to deal with the injuries … and wrap his head around it."

It was later made known (following Rick's death) that he was struggling with clinical depression. He returned after a 70-game absence on March 31, 2009 in a contest against the Minnesota Wild.

Rick appeared in 12 games for the Canucks in the 2008–09 season, recording three goals and no assists.

The season marked Vancouver's return to the playoffs after failing to qualify the previous season. After eliminating the St. Louis Blues in the first round, they were defeated in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rick appeared in all ten Canucks playoff games and recorded two points (both assists) while playing on the fourth-line alongside Darcy Hordichuk and Ryan Johnson.

He recorded his first playoff point in Game 4 of the second round against Chicago, assisting on a Hordichuk goal with a spin-o-rama pass.

Set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2009, Rick re-signed to a two-year deal with the Canucks on May 27, 2009

He continued to play on the Canucks' fourth line in 2009–10. He missed four games in October of 2009 with a groin injury and three games the following month with an upper-body ailment.

During a game against the St. Louis Blues on December 31, 2009, Rick was automatically ejected after a fight with opponent Cam Janssen revealed his hands were illegally taped below the wrist in order to support a sprained finger. In January of 2010, he missed an additional three games with illness.

Avoiding major injury for the first time in his NHL career, Rick recorded career-highs of 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists) in 69 games.

Rick began the 2010–11 NHL season on the injured reserve once again, missing the first two games with an upper body injury.

After returning to the lineup, he became infamously involved in a fan-related incident during an away game at the Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild on October 19, 2010.

After fighting opposing forward Brad Staubitz in the first period, the two players met again in the second period and were prepared to fight before being restrained by game officials.

Before walking down the tunnel towards the Canucks' dressing room, Wild fan James Engquist called towards Rick, "way to be a professional" while clapping. Rick grabbed Engquist by his jersey before letting go and walking away. He was suspended indefinitely pending an in-person disciplinary hearing about the altercation.

The NHL then suspended Rick for six games and fined the Canucks $25,000 while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Engquist to apologize and offered him dinner and tickets to another game.

In response, the fan stated that although he had not yet hired a lawyer, he would be "definitely seeking legal representation." Meanwhile, Rick told media he had apologized to his team and the league, describing his actions as "inexcusable."

After having served his suspension, Rick struggled to remain in the Canucks' lineup and was made a regular healthy scratch.

In late November of 2010, the Canucks allowed him another personal leave of absence. At this time, it began to be widely speculated in the media that Rick was suffering from mental health issues.

While the Canucks organization withheld any details regarding Rick's situation, general manager Mike Gillis stated publicly that "when you come to know somebody and realize they're a really good person. You don't only support them when they're at the top of their game. You support them when they're not feeling good about things or have other issues they have to deal with."

On March 8, 2011, Rick returned from his leave and was assigned to the Moose. The NHL waived the two-week limit allowed for a conditioning stint, allowing the Canucks to leave him with the Moose for the remainder of the season and avoid his salary cap hit.

Rick completed his final season as a Canuck with one assist over nine games, while also recording two assists in 11 AHL games. He also helped the Moose to the second round of the playoffs, recording one goal in seven post-season games, before they were eliminated by the Hamilton Bulldogs.

During the off-season, Rick and the Canucks parted ways as he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2011. The following day, he signed a one-year, US$700,000 contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets were set to begin their inaugural season after franchise's Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Under the same ownership as the Manitoba Moose, Rick joined a familiar organization in returning to Winnipeg.

Co-owner Mark Chipman recalled Rick's signing as "one of the best days of [his] summer," adding that "Beyond the announcement of joining the National Hockey League. That's what really brought the [Jets' return] full circle."

Rick was prepared to switch from jersey number 37 to 11 for the Jets (the same number he wore for the Pats during his junior career and the Moose when he first joined them), but died before having the opportunity to join his new team.

Depression & DeathEdit

Struggling with clinical depression throughout his career, Rick's mental health was eventually made known to the Vancouver Canucks organization during their 2008 training camp. The team consequently coordinated his treatment for the remainder of his tenure with the team.

Among his teammates, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa was the first person Rick confided in regarding his depression.

During his first leave of absence in 2008–09, Rick disappeared. Bieksa met with Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger (who Rick had a close personal relationship with) in Edmonton and drove to Rick's Alberta home in search of him.

Upon finding Rick, Bieksa brought him back to Vancouver to live with his family. When Rick returned from his leave, he was assigned by the Canucks to the Manitoba Moose. Upon arriving in Winnipeg, Rick publicly spoke about his absence, commenting that "doing the work I've done the last couple of months I've made a lot of gains as a person."

On August 15, 2011, Rick was found dead in his Crowsnest Pass, Alberta residence (a month-and-a-half after he signed with the Winnipeg Jets). The cause of death was confirmed as a suicide.

Rick had been scheduled for a flight to Winnipeg the previous night to have his knee evaluated that day. When he did not meet his appointment, Heisinger (who had since become the Jets assistant general manager) attempted to locate him. Following his death, Heisinger told media that Rick had been suffering from depression for more than ten years.

Jason Jaffray (a former Moose and Canucks teammate who had also recently signed with Winnipeg) expressed surprise at Rick's death, explaining that while he was aware of his mental health, he felt he was "a new man and the happiest [he'd] ever seen him."

Several hours after Rick's death was announced, Canucks fans began assembling a memorial outside of Rogers Arena and two days later, a fan-organized gathering of approximately 300 occurred at the memorial.

Rick's memorial service was held at Alberta Stella Arena (where he had played his minor hockey) in Blairmore, Alberta on August 20, 2011. Bieksa was on hand as one of the casket's pall bearers. He was one of numerous former teammates, general managers and figures from Rick's hockey career in attendance.

In the subsequent 2011–12 NHL season, the Canucks honoured him with a ceremony prior to a home game against the New York Rangers on October 18, 2011.

With Rick's parents, step-parents and brother on the ice, a four-minute tribute video was shown on the jumbotron. Bieksa further presented the family Rick's game-worn jersey from his last season as a Canuck. The team also announced a $50,000 donation in Rick's memory to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

The amount (which included contributions from the NHL Players Association's Goals & Dreams fund) was designated to fund a promotion strategy to help youth and young adults cope with mental health issues.

In honor of Rick, the Winnipeg Jets wear a decal, double "R" initials in blue inside a black circle on the team's helmets.

On August 16, 2012, family and friends of Rick gathered in his hometown of Crowsnest Pass to celebrate his legacy as part of the fifth NHLPA Goals & Dreams Cup.

Bieksa (along with NHL players Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk and Kris Versteeg) joined children from the Crowsnest Pass KidSport chapter, a program that Rick enthusiastically supported. KidSport received 50 sets of brand new hockey equipment from the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund in Rick's memory.

Rick was one of three NHL players to have died in the 2011 off-season; the other two were New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard and the recently retired Wade Belak.

Following Boogaard and Rick's deaths, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told media that the league would look into their substance abuse and behavioural issue programs (initiatives that both players had been involved with; Boogaard's death was due to a lethal combination of alcohol and oxycodone).

Career StatisticsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2001–02 Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves AJHL 57 12 10 22 143
2001–02 Regina Pats WHL 1 0 0 0 0
2002–03 Regina Pats WHL 50 6 12 18 159 5 1 1 2 21
2003–04 Regina Pats WHL 65 19 26 45 186 4 0 1 1 18
2004–05 Regina Pats WHL 63 22 29 51 148
2004–05 Manitoba Moose AHL 8 1 1 2 5 14 0 0 0 35
2005–06 Manitoba Moose AHL 49 9 6 15 122 13 1 1 2 22
2005–06 Vancouver Canucks NHL 5 1 0 1 4
2006–07 Manitoba Moose AHL 14 3 3 6 35
2006–07 Vancouver Canucks NHL 2 0 0 0 5
2007–08 Manitoba Moose AHL 34 3 11 14 81 6 0 0 0 10
2007–08 Vancouver Canucks NHL 22 1 2 3 41
2008–09 Vancouver Canucks NHL 12 3 0 3 19 10 0 2 2 40
2009–10 Vancouver Canucks NHL 69 4 4 8 126 7 0 1 1 7
2010–11 Vancouver Canucks NHL 9 0 1 1 31
2010–11 Manitoba Moose AHL 11 0 2 2 9 7 1 0 1 10
NHL totals 119 9 7 16 226 17 0 3 3 47
AHL totals 116 16 23 39 252 40 2 1 3 77

Playing StyleEdit

Throughout his career, Rick earned a reputation as a tough and hardworking player.

While playing with the Canucks, he was a fourth-line forward, providing energy with his speed on the forecheck, aggression and fighting abilities (attributes that made him a fan favourite throughout his junior and professional career), but also contributed to his injury troubles.

Rick regularly fought players well above his weight and height including Sheldon Brookbank (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and Hal Gill (6-foot-7, 240 pounds).

Personal LifeEdit

Rick was raised in Coleman, Alberta, Canada (a community with a population of approximately 1,000 people).

His parents are Shelly & Wes Rypien. Wes was a Canadian boxing champion and also played hockey. Rick's older brother Wes Jr. played in the WHL and later played professionally in the ECHL for several seasons.

His cousin Mark Rypien is a former National Football League (NFL) quarterback who was named the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXVI.

Rick played minor hockey out of the local Crowsnest Pass Minor Hockey Association. He joined his first team the Pass Rangers at the age of five or six. Aside from

Rick followed after his older brother, as well, who had began hockey before him. Growing up, his favourite players were forwards Wendel Clark and Eric Lindros.

During his second season with the Regina Pats, Rick's girlfriend died in a car accident while en route to watch him play in Calgary.

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