Although he was teammates with Willie Mitchell in Vancouver, Rick Rypien had no affiliation with the Los Angeles Kings organization. With that said, I'd be remiss not to acknowledge his untimely death. Rypien was just 27 years old.
Rypien was found by a family member at his home in Coleman, Alberta on Monday. Last season, he had taken a three-month leave of absence from the Canucks for personal reasons. It was no secret with his friends and teammates that he was fighting depression. Friend and former teammate of Rypien's with the AHL's now-relocated Manitoba Moose, Jason Jaffray had this to say: "Everyone knew he had some issues that he had to get taken care of last year and he was definitely a new man when he came back and ... he was definitely the happiest I'd even seen him. We actually had joked around about bringing a Cup back to Winnipeg."
After spending the whole of his NHL career with the Canucks, Rypien had signed with the Winnipeg Jets this off-season and, according to team assistant general manager Craig Heisinger, was supposed to fly to Winnipeg Sunday night to have his knee checked the following day. Rypien, however, never boarded the flight.
There are reports that suggest Rypien took his own life. Former teammate Nolan Baumgartner touched on the issue saying that although he was aware of Rypien's off-ice issues, he was never sure when and if to broach the subject with Rypien and understandably so. Baumgartner went on to say that he can't go on thinking that maybe he could have done something instead of simply remembering Rypien for the great guy on and off the ice he was.
Depression still is a very touchy subject as not everyone's comfortable talking about it whether they have it themselves or if someone they know has it. Personally, I was very critical of Rypien last fall when, during a game in Minnesota, he got into an altercation with a fan which led to his (Rypien) being suspended. If it's any consolation, given my stand on which team I support, I would have been just as critical of anyone who wore a Canucks jersey that night.
Nonetheless, this is the second tragedy in the hockey world in such a short period of time as Derek Boogaard lost his life only a couple of months earlier.
It is definitely a sad day for hockey and fans everywhere and my deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Rick Rypien during this most difficult time.