While the return of Ryan Kesler to active duty may have slightly overshadowed all other Canucks news, the focus tonight pre-puck-drop will be on remembering a fan favourite who passed before his time. Rick Rypien will be honoured this evening in a pre-game ceremony, including a 7-minute video tribute. The tribute will evidently not be televised, but will be viewable live on Canucks.com.
There’s little need to retell Rypien’s story in this space. Iain Macintyre’s article on Kevin Bieksa’s relationship with Rypien is as revealing and heartbreaking as it needs to be and the stories from around the Canucks’ organization are a fitting tribute. The website started in his honour funded by a donation from the Canucks to help youth deal with mental-health issues is a marvelous gesture, as Rypien wanted his story to help others battling with depression.
I don’t even want to talk strictly about his ability to fight, though he was one of the most exciting pugilists to play for the Canucks and even turned my wife, a late convert to hockey, into a fan of fighting.
Instead, I’ll always remember Rypien for the moments of promise that seemed to materialise out of nowhere. The moments where I could see his ability to play hockey at a higher level than his ability to fight would indicate. His shifts where he would hit the ice and then hit everything that was on it. The ability to make even Darcy Hordichuk look good. The time when his smooth skating matched stride for stride with Christian Ehrhoff on a beautiful give and go. His speed and patience with the puck in the playoffs. The remarkable release on his shot.
Rypien always seemed to have far more skill than he let on, and it was moments like those that made the injuries early in his Canucks career so frustrating. If it was frustrating to me as a fan, I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for him. He had a tremendous amount of promise beyond his abilities as an enforcer.
But by far my favourite memory of Rypien is how he played against Calgary. A native of Alberta and evidently a Flames fan growing up, Rypien always seemed to love facing the Flames. He scored 9 goals in his far too short NHL career. 5 of them came against the Flames, including an incredible short-handed breakaway goal that proved he was more than just a pugilist. 2 more of his goals came against the Edmonton Oilers, indicating that playing against teams from Alberta must have just felt right. Like he was home. Like he belonged.
Revered by his teammates, respected by his peers, remembered by his fans, loved by his family. Mourned by all.
Rest in peace, Rick Rypien.
Tags: featured, Rick Rypien