Pigskins 'n' pucks

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

When the Super Bowl MVP shows up for pickup hockey, nobody makes him backcheck.

So every time Mark Rypien straps on the blades, which is sometimes twice a week, he knows there's a free pass from digging in the corner, taking punishment in front of the net and even skating hard.

At least he can do one thing well.

Pass, of course.

"I'm a centreman, which is good because I don't have to cover anybody and I can just skate around wherever I want," said the Calgary-born former NFL quarterback.

"I can set up office behind the net."

Rypien will be participating in Henry Burris' All-Star Weekend, a fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Calgary.

Rypien excelled at nearly every sport growing up, winning titles in high school basketball, baseball and, of course, football.

Yet hockey remains one of his passions.

He follows the NHL religiously from Spokane, Wash., where Rypien has lived since leaving Canada at age five. And he's quick to mention his cousin Rick Rypien, who played five games with the Canucks this season and is now playing in the AHL playoffs with the Manitoba Moose.

"He does the little things -- digs the puck out, drops the mittens if he has to and kills penalties," said Rypien, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL and won the 1991 Super Bowl with Washington. "I love good hockey, especially playoff hockey. You see the blood, sweat and tears and how the guys want it so bad. This is the best time to be a hockey fan."

When Burris asked Rypien to participate in the all-star weekend, he was quick to lend his star power.

His life for the past few years has been dedicated to his own charity, the Mark Rypien Foundation, which he started to help kids with cancer.

Rypien lost son Andrew to cancer in 1998 and his foundation is in his honour.

"We help out with parents who have children diagnosed with this sometimes deadly situation and it gives them a bit of hope," Rypien said.

"To put a smile on a parent's face when they are faced with the most difficult times in their lives, to give them a reason for hope, it turns over the kid. If the parents aren't struggling with it, the kids gets more confidence that he could overcome it. If you feel you can, you will."


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