Like so many, I was heartbroken last night when I heard about the tragic death of former Canucks forward Rick Rypien. Nothing prepares you for something like that, and it’s so much harder to accept when it’s someone so young. This has been a difficult summer for the hockey world, which has lost yet another member of its family far too soon.
As a Canucks fan, I can tell you I was quite upset when I heard Rick had signed on to play for the Jets next season. Not because the team was losing one of the best fighters in the game, but because it was losing a player who seemed to have rediscovered his love for hockey. Rypien’s off-ice issues are well documented, and not worth mentioning here; there will be much talk about that in the weeks and months to come, I’m sure. What I remember most is an interview he did while playing for the Manitoba Moose after his time away from the game.
There he was – the man who months earlier had mysteriously taken another personal leave of absence from the Canucks – with a full black beard and grin from ear to ear. Rick seemed genuinely enthusiastic to be back playing the game he loved, back trying to prove himself to himself and to his teammates. More importantly, he looked like he was having fun, which is what hockey is really all about. It warmed my heart to see someone who had clearly gone through some very dark times enjoying himself again, enjoying life again.
That’s what made me sad when we lost him to the Jets, and that’s what has me devastated now. Clearly, I’m not alone; fans have been paying tribute to Rick outside Rogers Arena since last night, and there will be a public memorial held there in his honour tomorrow, August 17th, at 2pm.
I’ll always remember Rick Rypien as one of the toughest Canucks to wear the uniform, and as that man, playing down with the Moose, smiling for the love of the game.
Rest in peace, Rick. You’ll be sorely missed.