Just look for a moment at the photo above. There's Rick Rypien, all 5' 11", 190 lbs of him, throttling the hulking behemoth that is Dustin Byfuglien. That picture tells you everything you need to know about Rick Rypien. There may not have been anyone as tough, pound for pound as Ryp, and certainly none as fearless. The ultimate team player, who would take on anyone to defend his teammates. Tonight, the Canucks will be paying tribute to a player who truly exemplified the theme for this season: The Heart Of A Canuck.
I have tried my best to prepare for this day as best I could, but I am a mess today. The battle to hold back tears for someone I never met is not going so well. Not just a player from my team, but the extra place in my heart for Ryp having waged a battle with depression, one that ultimately consumed him, Rick Rypien is on the minds of many of us today. The irony of tonight's opponent, the New York Rangers certainly adds to the emotions. They too have gone into this season with heavy hearts after losing their own enforcer, Derek Boogaard to an accidental overdose earlier in the year. And add in the game winning goal being scored by Ryp the last time the Rangers came to town, and the return of another Canuck to the lineup that truly is the heart and soul of this squad in Ryan Kesler, and the emotions will be running high indeed.
Rypien's abilities as a fighter, stemming from learning how to box via his Golden Gloves winning father, are the stuff of legend. There weren't many who could switch hands mid-fight, like Ryp, and even less who could defend against it. But unlike a lot of 4th line grunts brought in to chuck the knuckles, Rypien could skate, and had wheels as fast as anyone on the team, making him an effective forechecker. And while he was never going to lead the league in scoring, he managed a few pretty, and timely goals.
The debate rages about the Canucks and team toughness, and while we may never come to a consensus on that, one thing we do know is that players who underestimated Rypien paid the price. He never let anyone get away with garbage against the team, whether it be teammates or himself. I could post all his fight videos, but the one I found that really hit home about his ferocity, was this one from the 2009 playoffs in the first round against Los Angeles. The Canucks were up comfortably with a 7-2 lead, when Richard Clune decided he needed to send a message for the next game. Clune likely regrets that to his day as you will see in the video.
In the midst of another sputtering October, the Canucks are looking for a turning point to send them off in the right direction, much like the blowout loss to Chicago did last season. Tonight, with the tribute to a fallen brother and the return of another, might be exactly what they need to get their confidence back. It's time to put aside the petty bickering about goaltenders, coaching and line combinations. As a player like Ryp would likely tell you, it's about the crest on the front, not the name on the back. Few have done that crest as proud as you Ryp, and we will miss you always. Always a Canuck, always in our hearts.
I loved that CFOX played this track this morning, so my hats off to them for the thought, here's Judas Priest, with The Ripper...