The Rick Rypien Story

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Rick Rypien was a NHL player most hockey fans knew because of the fights he fought on the ice during games. He was one of the leagues toughest enforcers. No one, except for a few people he opened up to knew of the fight he was putting up with off the ice, battling with depression.

Four years ago today, at the age of 27, Rick Rypien took his own life. It is absolutely heartbreaking to think that someone who was loved by so many and had thousands of fans felt alone in a world of 7 billion and like it was impossible to get help. Sometimes asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but pretending it isn’t happening won’t make the illness any better.  Talking about it will.

It is something hard to put into words, which is why it is rarely spoken about. How can we stomp out the stigma around mental illness if people are not educated or aware of it? In that case, people who suffer from mental illness will not feel comfortable speaking about it and will keep it to themselves, like Rick did. Rick Rypien did not want to feel like a burden so he kept quiet about suffering. It is impossible to get help if no one knows you are hurting. People need to understand that having a mental illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Seek help if you or someone you know need it.

Rick Rypien spent his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks. He was not drafted into the NHL and made it through sheer hard work and determination. In his first NHL game on his very first shot, Rypien scored.  Due to his illness, Rypien left the NHL (and came back) several times. It is sad to think that Rypien was suffering so much, he felt he could no longer play the game he loved. Although it is hard not to be sad or mourn over Rick’s tragic death,  fans should be thankful and feel lucky that they got to witness his talent and love for the game of hockey.

Today, lets remember the times Rypien did not have to take off his gloves and fight. Lets remember him as a small, talented hockey player with a big heart. We will always remember this young spitfire rocketing around the ice in his number 37. He was truly “The Little Engine That Could.”

Rick Rypien once said “Believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You just have to believe in yourself and if you want it bad enough, you can do it.”

Rest in Peace, Rick. You’re truly missed.



Toronto Maple Leafs writer for Hockey Tracker. Born and raised Leafs fan, with an extreme passion for hockey.

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