Rick Rypien signed with the Winnipeg Jets in July of 2011. The Jets were thrilled with the new free agent addition. A hard worker, a true teammate, a quiet leader, a silent assassin. On August 14th, he had a flight to Winnipeg to meet with a team doctor. He missed his appointment. The team doctor tried to have his family track him down. It was too late.
A family member found Rick Rypien alone on August 15, 2011 in his own home. He had taken his own life.
What a loss this world suffered on that day. His teammates described him with admiration and were deeply saddened. Some had known about his struggle with clinical depression. That said, his teammates were shocked. A close friend from the Manitoba Moose who had also signed on to play with the Jets that offseason, Jason Jaffray, said he felt he was “a new man and…the happiest [he’d] ever seen him.”
This blog post is to honor the man that Rick Rypien was. While he struggled with clinical depression, he was much more than that. He was a human being. He had his flaws, but his positive qualities far outweighed the demons he was battling with. He made an impact on all that knew him.
Because I could not write it any better, here are some quotes from those who knew him describing him as a man and player:
“With a face that had never seen a razor blade and that mischievous smile, Rypien looked to all the unsuspecting world like a choirboy.But he played like the devil’s winger.” – Randy Turner, Journalist Winnipeg Free Press
“He was quiet and did all his talking with his hard work. Old-school, keep your mouth shut and play hard. You add the way he did it, too… making an impact so early, that’s what I really admired about him. And it just grew from there.” – Mark Chipman, co-owner Winnipeg Jets
“If anybody challenged him, especially early on, somebody’s not going to come out of this good, and it’s not going to be Ryp.” – Randy Carlyle, NHL Head Coach, Manitoba Moose Head Coach
“He played the game with such reckless abandon and a fearlessness, he had cuts and bruises and nicks on his face, it seemed like a new one every night. Never complained, never whined. He’d just come to the rink every day and get his ice bag and get his treatment. Then go out and play his tail off.” – Brent Parker, Junior Hockey GM
“Like any kid, he had trouble dealing with it, but he kept everything so close to the vest you never thought it was at any dangerous levels. He seemed to deal with it as well as you could expect.” – Brent Parker, Junior Hockey GM
“It was never about himself, he was never worried that he might get hurt. He would just do everything he could to make that team better. I don’t even know if he realized he was that small. He had no fear.” – Jordan McGillivray, Junior Hockey Teammate
I guess his loss is a lesson for all of us. It’s easy to assume that somebody is making progress by the way they present themselves. It is difficult to check in and ask the tough questions. Nobody wants to get too personal or push too hard when it comes to asking about mental health. For those ready, however, sometimes being asked “how are you?” can lead to a more candid discussion of struggle. It is an invitation to talk as much or as little as you are comfortable with. That simple question is all that’s needed to start the conversation that could change a life. It takes time, however, and not every person is ready to talk. So be patient. And keep asking nicely.
While there are times to back off and it is exhausting trying to navigate whether to ask a friend about how they are feeling, it is never too much to tell somebody that you love them and care about them. Sometimes those simple words can make a difference and provide a source of hope.
Here are some candid words describing Rick’s struggle for those who have never experienced depression:
“It’s something real and raw, and it’s very deep, it gives you a sense of hopelessness. You can be on the top of your game, but you can still feel that life has lost its meaning. And it’s very hard to get away from that feeling. It’s a black hole, it really is. With depression, it might be an effort just to brush your teeth.” – Tara Brousseau, Director Manitoba Mood Disorders Association
Rest in Peace Rick Rypien. The world is a better place because of you.
Rick Rypien 1984-2011
For those who want more information about Rick: