October 18, 2011
For the record, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa(notes) doesn't believe the late Rick Rypien(notes) would appreciate Rick Rypien Night. "He wouldn't want to burden anybody," Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun.
On Tuesday night in Vancouver, the Canucks will hold a ceremony in Rypien's honor called "Heart of a Canuck — Rick Rypien Night." It'll take place before faceoff against the New York Rangers and will be streamed live on Canucks.com. Rypien, 27, was found dead in his Alberta home in late August.
Bieksa will be there, honoring a former teammate and a man he considered a brother -- having recently spoke about their friendship in a way that'll break your heart all over again about this tragedy.
He opened up to Ian MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun about their relationship, and how much Bieksa and his wife personally tried to help Rypien:
Bieksa never betrayed Rypien's trust, even to caring teammates who inquired about Rypien's well-being. The Canucks organization knew about Rypien's depression since that 2008 camp and coordinated the player's treatment. Bieksa and his wife, Katie, helped as much as anyone. While sitting out the rest of the 2008-09 regular season, Rypien stayed with the Bieksas.
"My wife stayed up to five in the morning talking to him every night," Kevin said. "We did what we could. . . just tried to get him through this. He loved hockey, loved coming to the rink. I remember him saying he just missed sitting in the dressing room and listening to guys chirping Hordy (ex-Canuck Darcy Hordichuk(notes)). Things like that. Those were the things he enjoyed, the camaraderie. He didn't like to be alone."
The entire piece — and if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? — spoke to a level of care for Rypien's depression that I hadn't considered before.
There was so much emphasis after his death about what the NHL or the NHLPA or the Canucks did or did not do to help players fighting depression, the role of the "brotherhood" in the locker room was overlooked.
Reading this article, you're reminded of how these relationships between players go so far beyond locker room camaraderie. How personal, and familial, things get. How it must frustrate an outspoken guy like Bieska to have seen Rypien maligned during his career for one reason or another, unable to step in and explain what he's actually battling through.
You're also reminded of the "I am my brother's keeper" adage, because Bieksa spells it out:
"I felt he was as much my responsibility as anybody's. Looking back now, I wished I'd talked to him a little more in the summer."
Perhaps tonight will be cathartic for Bieksa, and for the fans that still mourn Rypien. The Canucks have a collection of remembrances on their website, and Pass It To Bulis has a great tribute as well.
Perhaps his greatest legacy: Awareness. The Canucks are donating $50,000 to B.C. Children's Hospital and the Fraser Health Authority to help young people battle mental health through a new website. From the Sun, Canucks GM Mike Gillis:
"Rick told us he wanted to tell his story and help young people who had similar issues. He didn't have that opportunity, so we are going to use this as a vehicle to tell Rick's story as part of an educational and awareness program that will allow young people to get the resources that can help them," said Gillis.
"Rather than just let his legacy pass by, we wanted to get actively involved in a program and, even if it helps just one person, I'm sure Rick would have been pleased about it," said Gillis.
As Bieksa said: "He was a very genuine person with a huge heart. He really cared about other people. He was very selfless."