Rypien hopes to get career back on track

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

Rick Rypien is finally at peace.

While its true Rypien had to go to a dark place in order to find the light, the enlightening journey hes been on during his time away from the game he loves has sparked his passion to resume his hockey career.

Rypien took the next step on the road to recovery Tuesday when he met the media in Winnipeg after the Vancouver Canucks assigned him to the Manitoba Moose on a conditioning assignment.

Ive missed a lot of hockey and I didnt want to do that, but there were certain things that had to be dealt with, said Rypien, who has been on personal leave since November. I definitely have a different mindset right now. Im more excited about hockey than Ive ever been in my life.

Although he didnt go into specifics about where hes been spending his time or what hes been doing, Rypien did offer some insight.

He was also quick to dispel a rumour that has been floating around in cyberspace.

(The issues) are behind me and one thing I want to 100% clarify is that theres no substance abuse at all its the farthest thing from it, said Rypien. This is a personal matter. Its kind of a rare issue and even though its taken me away from the game I love, doing the work Ive done the last couple of months Ive made a lot of gains as a person and as an individual.

I got to really understand and have a relationship with myself, which Ive never had the opportunity to do before. With how far Ive come and progressed these last few months, I really believe deep down that its going to benefit my on-ice performance.

Eventually, Rypien plans to reveal additional details of what hes gone through.

The more I go on, the more I can talk about it and hopefully, one day I can help other hockey players who might be experiencing difficulties with whatever theyre dealing with off the ice, said Rypien.

Although his goal is to return to the NHL eventually, Rypien is in no rush.

This is the place that kickstarted my professional career and theyve been great to me since Day 1, said Rypien, who has been skating the past few days in Winnipeg but needs a little more time before hes ready for game action. Its great to be back here and get my hockey career back on track. Im going to be working harder than Ive ever worked. If I can apply myself, the sky can be the limit for me.

Going forward, Rypien feels he has more to offer than simply being a tough guy but hes not planning to shy away from his in-your-face style either.

Im going to play the way I play, but theres a lot of areas I can improve in, he explained. I dont think I was ever playing to the full potential I can play. I always wanted to show a side I havent been able to do yet and thats my focus.

Moose general manager Craig Heisinger first signed Rypien to an amateur tryout offer in the spring of 2005 and his enthusiastic style immediately made him a fan favourite and ultimately helped him secure an NHL deal.

Heisinger is obviously rooting for Rypien to succeed in this comeback.

Were glad that hes back here and not only resuming his hockey career but his career in life as well, said Heisinger. We hope to provide him the opportunity to do well at both and at the end of the day, Ricks a real good person.

HOOF PRINTS: The Moose continued a swing of seven games against West Division opponents with a tidy 4-1 victory over the Oklahoma City Barons on Tuesday night. Alexandre Bolduc scored a pair of goals, including one while short-handed, with singles coming from Guillaume Desbiens and Cody Hodgson. Tyler Weiman made 28 saves to record the victory. The Moose, who improved to 35-23-1-5, are back in action on Friday against the Houston Aeros.

At a glance

Rick Rypien

Hometown: Coleman, Alta.

Age: 26

Position: Forward

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 190 pounds

Undrafted

Career stats: 9G, 7A, 16P and 226PIM in 119GP in NHL games with Vancouver Canucks, 16G, 21A, 37P and 243 PIM in 105 AHL games with Manitoba Moose

2010-11 stats: Rypien limited to nine games with Canucks this season and has been out for personal reasons since November


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