August 15, 2011
News 1130 in Vancouver reported late Monday that Rypien took his own life (the original story is here) but later changed that language to a "non-suspicious, sudden death."
Former Vancouver Canucks tough guy Rick Rypien was found dead by a family member on Monday in Crowsnest Pass, Alta.
Rypien, who signed with the Winnipeg Jets in July, had missed most of last season because of a leave of absence from the Canucks for personal issues.
Local RCMP told The Globe and Mail on Monday night that the death was not suspicious.
The report was confirmed by TSN. His death comes three months after the passing of New York Rangers fighter Derek Boogaard(notes) at 28, from what medical examiners ruled was an "accidental mixture of alcohol and oxycodone."
Known primarily for his role as a fighter and physical presence in the lineup, Rypien amassed 226 penalty minutes in 119 NHL games. He was 27, and had signed with the Winnipeg Jets last month after a controversial season with the Canucks.
Rypien gained infamy last season when he snapped during an October 2010 game at the Minnesota Wild, grabbing a fan that had taunted him with applause as he left the ice after a misconduct penalty. Rypien was suspended six games and the Canucks were fined $25,000.
In November 2010, Rypien was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the Canucks for "personal matters." In March 2011, he was placed on the AHL Manitoba Moose's "reserve list" prior to the league's trade deadline, a sign he was on the comeback trail. He played 11 games for the Moose in the 2010-11 season, and scored a game-winning overtime goal in the AHL playoffs.
Said Rypien to the Winnipeg Sun in March, after joining the Moose on a conditioning stint:
"(The issues) are behind me and one thing I want to 100% clarify is that there's no substance abuse at all — it's the farthest thing from it," said Rypien. "This is a personal matter. It's kind of a rare issue and even though it's taken me away from the game I love, doing the work I've done the last couple of months I've made a lot of gains as a person and as an individual.
"I got to really understand and have a relationship with myself, which I've never had the opportunity to do before. With how far I've come and progressed these last few months, I really believe deep down that it's going to benefit my on-ice performance."
Rypien was signed as a free agent by the Winnipeg Jets on July 4.
While last season was a trying one for Rypien personally and professionally, the fact that he was an NHL player was an inspiring feat. His birthplace of Coleman, Alberta, was a town of about 1,000 people, yet Rypien made the NHL as an undrafted player. He was 5-foot-11, yet threw himself into the role as a fighter against larger foes.
The Canucks website had an enlightening chat with Rypien last year about his journey to the NHL, including:
What was the biggest obstacle to get to where you are today?
Not being drafted and always being smaller and and probably no one in a million years thought I could do it. Trying to overcome that, i just tried to stay positive and knowing that I could do it. I think not being drafted and having to work your way after that. You kind of look at it and think which way to go but I got lucky enough after junior that Craig Heisinger picked me up and just went from there. I met Craig in my last junior season with the Regina Pats, he called me up with the Manitoba Moose during the lockout year and got started there. He gave me a great opportunity and I tried to make the most of it.
I always knew that if I worked hard enough - and I always felt something inside that told me I could do it - so if I worked hard enough I would get there.
We'll have more when it becomes available. Thoughts and prayers to Rick Rypien's family and friends during this tragedy.