Rypien mourned across league
PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
|Calvin Ng signs a Canadian flag and leaves a note at memorial for Rick Rypien outside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., Aug. 16, 2011 (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - The sudden death of forward Rick Rypien continued to send shock waves through the hockey world, Tuesday.
Tributes poured in, too, as fans in Vancouver created a makeshift memorial to the former Canuck outside Rogers Arena, while flags outside the MTS Centre in Winnipeg flew at half mast.
The Alberta native’s sudden death hit close to home in Winnipeg, where Rypien began and ended his pro career with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose — and where he was planning to start fresh after signing with the NHL’s Jets this summer.
The 27-year-old was supposed to be here when he was found dead at his home in Coleman, Alb., early Monday afternoon.
“He seemed really excited to be back here,” Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger said. “There was a comfort zone here for him. He had an apartment all set up. He was ready to go. Did we see any signs? No, I didn’t.”
Heisinger, though, knew Rypien suffered from depression for the last 10 years or so, a condition that twice caused him to take leaves of absence from the Canucks, the latest causing him to miss most of last season.
“I for sure thought he’d made strides,” Heisinger said. “And I still believe that.”
Former Canucks teammate Tanner Glass, who also signed with the Jets this summer, certainly thought so when he saw TV coverage of Rypien returning to hockey with the Moose, late last season.
“He looked great,” Glass said from Vancouver. “He had a sparkle in his eyes.”
Glass heard of Rypien’s death from former Canucks teammates Aaron Rome and Cory Schneider, Monday night.
“It was shocking,” he said. “One of the first things that goes through your head is, ‘What could I have done? Could I have helped him?’ ”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association boss Don Fehr issued statements expressing their grief.
In Toronto, Canucks GM Mike Gillis said he was shocked about Rypien’s death, given his apparent improvement over the last several months.
“It sounded like he was in a great place,” Gillis said. “I’m just extremely shocked and disappointed.”
Gillis declined to talk about the treatment the Canucks helped Rypien seek.
“We relied on experts and we relied on both the NHLPA and the NHL doctors,” Gillis said. “We relied on different facilities. We relied on lots of people. There is no blueprint. I think it ebbs and flows depending on circumstances that are beyond your control, often.
“As anybody knows, who’s dealt with these issues in the past, there’s no answer, there’s no defined course of action. If there was, we’d all be better off.”