NHL tough guy Rypien laid to rest

NHL tough guy Rypien laid to rest
August 24, 2011, 1:49 pm
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From Comcast SportsNet Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BLAIRMORE, Alberta (AP) -- Nearly 1,000 people remembered Rick Rypien on Saturday in
the arena where the Winnipeg Jets forward played his minor hockey.

Just days after the 27-year-old tough guy died suddenly in his southern Alberta home, a large crowd turned out on a bright sunny day at Albert Stella Arena for Rypien's funeral.

Rypien, who last played with the Vancouver Canucks, died Monday at his offseason home in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where a police official said a call was answered for a "sudden and non-suspicious" death.

Rypien, who struggled with depression, had signed with the Jets during the offseason after six years with the Canucks.

His death came as a surprise to many who knew him and thought he was on the road to recovery. They said Rypien was looking forward to playing for the newly relocated Jets.

"We were all hopeful," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said. "We had thought at different times that he had turned a corner and we were making progress but then it would just happen again."

"We had the ability to intervene. We had the opportunity over the past three years to try our hardest to do the best thing. I don't think there's an easy answer to this," he told reporters after the service.

Jets assistant general manager Crag Heisinger knew Rypien from his minor league days with the Manitoba Moose. He signed Rypien to a one-year contract with the Jets.

"The system didn't fail Rick," Heisinger said. "Everybody did as much as they possibly could for him. He did as much as he possibly could for himself.

"It's just nothing could be done at the end. At the end of the day if Rick's happier where he is today we should all be happy for him. Everybody faces challenges. He's no different than anybody else. He fought them like everybody else. It's just in the end the demon depression won out."

Rypien's family remembered him as someone who was gifted athletically but who put friends and family ahead of even his love for hockey.

"My overwhelming question is, why? How could this happen?" his uncle, Allan Rypien Jr., said. "He had a great family, great friends and a great job.

"He fought this disease with everything he had in him. If you knew Rick, he fought with everything he had in him. Unfortunately the disease won the battle."

A number of minor hockey players, wearing Crowsnest Pass Thunder hockey jerseys were
among those in attendance.

An autographed No. 37 jersey from Rypien's time with the Canucks and a poster from his days with the WHL's Regina Pats were part of items scattered among bunches of flowers.

Rypien's former Vancouver teammate Kevin Bieksa was one of the pallbearers. His cousin, former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien attended the service, as well.

The program, with a smiling photo of Rypien in a blue Vancouver jersey, said simply "Until we all meet again."

Rypien is the second NHL tough guy to die during this offseason. New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died in May in Minnesota due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.