Former Canuck Rick Rypien Found Dead

Former Canucks forward Rick Rypien has been found dead at his home in Crowsnest Pass, AB. Rypien was 27 and last month signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Winnipeg Jets after playing only nine games with Vancouver last season.

It's too early to speculate as to how the center passed away at such an age; early reports suggest it's non-suspicious. Rypien sadly joins Derek Boogaard as the second young NHLer to pass away unexpectedly this summer.

Rypien wasn't a crucial part of the Canucks Cup run, but he played all 119 career games with the Canucks and was a fourth line staple for most of 2009-2010. He scored a few beauties (can't forget this one) along the way but will best be remembered for his fists and the 97 fights the 5'11'' forward had dating back to 2002.

RIP Ripper. It's far too soon to be writing that. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

We'll keep you updated after the jump as more news trickles through.

8:13 PM PT: An official statement from the Canucks:

"It is with tremendous sadness that the Vancouver Canucks confirm the passing of Rick Rypien. Rick has been a beloved member of the Canucks family for the past six years. Rick was a great teammate and friend to our players, coaches and staff. We send our deepest condolences to the Rypien family at this most difficult time."

The official statement from the Jets:

"We are deeply saddened to confirm Rick’s passing. As many people are aware, he had strong ties to True North Sports & Entertainment, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, the former Manitoba Moose Hockey Club and the Vancouver Canucks. We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick’s friends. We also appreciate all of the support that has come pouring in from Rick’s fans. Rick was a talented player with an extremely bright future. His hunger for the game made him a valued team member both on and off the ice. This loss has impacted us as more than just a hockey team."
 
The organization will have no further comment at this time. We kindly ask the privacy of Rick’s family and friends be respected during this difficult period.

8:21 PM PT: There is a public gathering tomorrow Wednesday to remember Rypien at Rogers Arena. Check FB for more information: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=111128482321330

8:25 PM PT: Arctic Hockey has a few more Rypien links, including some pieces by Gabriel Desjardins in other publications through the years.

8/16 8:29 AM PT: Dan Murphy has his take up on Sportsnet:

On the ice, Rick was all about his teammates. He loved to stick up for them. And you'd have to guess that's why the Canucks stood up for him over the last few years when he was trying to overcome his demons. The Canucks loved his work ethic, the way he battled and tirelessly fought to get back into top shape injury after injury.

One year, Rypien showed up at prospects camp even though I'm pretty sure he wasn't required to. Rypien set the pace in the drills and conditioning, setting an example to the younger players in attendance. He would crush the Grouse Grind in 37 minutes while the rest of the prospects were labouring in towards the 50-60 minute mark and then encourage them up. Thus supporting them while also showing them how hard they would need to work in order to get into proper shape.

Rick was a great teammate. Ask anyone. In fact two years back goaltender Josh Harding called Rypien the best captain he ever had (the two played together in Regina). Remember, Harding said this when he had already been in the NHL for a number of years. That is a great compliment.

I'll smile when I think of Rypien. It's tough not to when you look back on some of memorable moments with the Canucks. Like when he took on Hal Gill or Boris Valabik despite the fact he was giving up more than six inches and 50 pounds to each of them. Or when he went toe-to-toe with Cam Janssens last season. Or the memorable three fights he had with Brandon Prust in one game when Prust was a member of the Calgary Flames.

8/16 9:00 AM PT: Travis Hughes has a piece up now on the main SBN hockey page:

Rypien was adamant in that March interview that substance abuse was not his problem, and we can't know for sure, at least at this stage, whether or not his fighting caused mental problems that forced him away from the game. We certainly can't connect those issues with his death at this stage, either.

But it's all the chilling truth that tough guys in the NHL are perhaps some of the most misunderstood people in the sport of hockey, and given Rypien's personal issues, it's safe to lump him in that category. It's also safe to believe that his job had something to do with those issues, to an extent unknown. 

The ultimate reason for the death of Rick Rypien won't be explained for days or even potentially weeks, but regardless of the explanation, a man who had to overcome some serious personal demons is gone. He attempted to reach out for help and was apparently on the road to recovery, with a new gig in a town that he seemed to hold deep affection for -- the town where he started his pro career in 2004.

Puck Daddy has a look at Rypien under the broader light of fighting in hockey:

But the more tragedies we witness, the more science tells us about CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] and other brain damage, the more likely it is that the NHL will stop waiting for the culture to change and legislate most forms of fighting-for-show out of the game. Even if many of us feel it will fundamentally change the product.

Canucks.com has a new video out with some Rypien highlights.

8/16 11:03 AM PT: Rypien's roommate (and former Canuck) Jason Jaffray comments about how Ryp wanted to bring a Cup to Winnipeg.

Another friend and player Craig Schira commented on Rypien as well:

"For me he was so special because here I was this young kid and he was this guy who would take on the world for his teammates," said Schira, an Ottawa Senators prospect who played last season with Binghamton of the AHL. "I remember getting off to a slow start and was struggling with my confidence and he just took me under his wing. One game in particular I played well and he was the first one to come to me after and congratulate me. He was a guy I looked up to all year. Just the way he treated the young guys is something I've tried to bring to the teams  I've played on. I'll never forget him for that."

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