#37 in our hearts forever

Tuesday, 18.10.2011 / 2:35 PM / Features
By Travis Britton
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#37 in our hearts forever

Rick Rypien was a special player who wore his heart on his sleeve. He was a small-town guy from Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, who had a never-quit attitude that endeared him to players, coaches, management and fans alike.

Rypien had a lot of big fights in his career. He had a lot of nice hits. He had some goals and set some up some more. But what Rypien really had was an un-wavering dedication to make it in the sport he loved.

His determination to make the NHL was relentless. He battled through a long list of injuries, he beat out players with more talent, and above all he battled against his personal demons. But in the end he achieved his life-long dream, achieving what many have failed to do.

Rypien has been a beloved member of the Canucks family for the past six years. He was a great teammate and friend to our players, coaches and staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with the whole Rypien Family at such a trying and difficult time.

Top ten moments in Ryp’s career:

1. Rypien joined the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League after playing one season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves. Unselected in the annual WHL Bantam Draft, Rypien earned a spot with the Pats.

2. While with Regina, he served as the team captain. After posting 45 points in 2002–03, he received three team awards, being named team MVP, the fans' choice as most popular player (Bill Hicke Award) and the Molson Cup champion, receiving the most three star selections.

3. Undrafted out of junior, he signed with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League to an amateur tryout late in the 2004–05 season.

4. He completed the season with the Moose and early the next season, he was signed to an NHL contract by Manitoba's parent club, the Vancouver Canucks, on November 9, 2005.

5. He made his NHL debut for the Canucks against the Edmonton Oilers on December 21, 2005, and scored his first NHL goal on his first shot in the first period.

6. In the 2009 off-season, Rypien signed a two-year extension with the Canucks.

7. Rypien’s best goal was a beauty shorthanded effort that he scored against Calgary. The goal showed the kind of determination Rypien used to ride all the way to the NHL. He fought off two players and made a nice dangle and beat a top goalie in Mikka Kipprusoff to score a highlight-reel goal against the Flames.

8. Probably the highlight of Rypien's scoring career came in the playoffs against the hated rival Chicago Blackhawks. With little to no gas left in the tank, and trapped in their zone for most of their shift Rypien managed to coral a puck off a blocked shot by Ryan Johnson and took off to the races. With the Hawks closing in, Rypien nailed a spin-o-rama and placed a perfect pass to Darcy Hordichuk who neatly walked in and gave the Canucks the lead.

9. In the Moose’s last playoff run, Rypien came back from his leave of absence and played like a man possessed to help lead an unlikely comeback from 3-1 down in their series against the heavily favored Lake Erie Monsters. And he did it all on one leg as the other was badly injured and needed surgery.

10. On July 2, 2011, Rypien signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

Top ten fights in Ryp’s career:

11. Rypien vs. Hal Gill(Oct. 7/2009): To set the stage, Rick Rypien was 5"11, 190 pounds and that was probably being pretty generous on both accounts. Hal Gill was 6"7, 241 pounds. Rypien, employing his usually defensive posture with one arm acting like a shield protecting his face, Rypien goes in guns a blazing. Rypien, not content to just land face shots, began peppering Gill's body with shots all up and down his huge frame.

12. Rypien vs. Boris Valabik(Dec. 10/2009): Boris Valabik was 6"7 and 245 pounds. Valabik had the edge early on in this fight, spreading his arms and showing off his reach advantage, in an attempt to intimidate Rypien. Rypien, using Valabik's weak attempts of intimidation as motivation, began to punch back and pepper the much larger combatant. Rypien literally beat Valabik into the ice.

13. Rypien vs. Mike Moore(Oct. 2/2008): They both throw heavy shots early with not much landing, until Rypien gets his left firing on all cylinders, and that’s when Moore gets in trouble. Once Rypien gets Moore’s jersey over his head it’s lights out for the Shark. Decision….Ripper!

14. Rypien vs. Daniel Carcillo(March 17,2008): Carcillo at this point and time was on the Coyotes, and felt he needed to get his team fired up through some fist-a-cuffs. Basically both men began going punch for punch, which was Carcillo’s first mistake as not many in the league can give and receive like Rypien.

15. Rypien vs. Zach Stortini(April 4/2009): The notorious hugger/fighter eats a hard left early from Ryps and barely holds on.

16. Rypien vs Cam Janssen(Dec. 31/2009): This fight would not disappoint. Both men threw with everything they had, but it was near the end of the fight that Ryps brought out his patented "Grab your jersey and jab you in the face.” It ended pretty even but it was Janssen that came out bloody. Regardless, this was one of the biggest fights of Rypien's career, cementing him as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the league.

17. Rypien vs. Brandon Prust x 2(Jan. 9/2010): Rypien and Prust had two spirited fights on this night, and by watching these two videos you can get a feel for why Vancouver fans loved Rypien. As you can see in the second fight Rypien is all but out of gas but when the crowd starts chanting his name, it gives Ryp just enough to finish off Prust.

18. Rypien vs. Brendan Brooks(Nov. 7/2006): Manitoba Moose Rick Rypien gets the decision on this one vs. Brooks from The Grand Rapids. Rypien gets knocked down early but comes back with vengeance and takes Brooks out with a flurry of punches.

19. Rypien vs. Brad May(Nov. 12/2009): Rypien takes on the grizzled vet and they both throw punches hard and heavy early. But Rypien catches May with a left and manages to get his jersey over his head giving the Canuck a huge advantage and the win.

20. Rypien vs. Ryan Carter(Sept. 24/2009): Rypien wins the draw and then drops the mitts. Stuns Carter very early with a hard left hook, dazing the Anaheim Duck to the point that he gets dropped twice, only for Rypien to let him back up to feed him some more knuckle sandwiches.

Top ten quotes about Ryp:

21. “Rick Rypien is the type of guy that every father wants their daughter to bring home.” Said former Regina Pats coach Bob Lowes, to Rob Vanstone of the Leader Post.

22. “He had to answer the bell every night to the other team’s toughest guy and a majority of the time he’d come out on top,” said then-Pats director of scouting Todd Ripplinger, to Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun. “For a while no one would even come after him, he had that kind of reputation. Pound-for-pound he was the toughest guys who played for the Pats and his teammates and the fans here loved him for it. They still do.”

23. In late December 2004 the Pats had just returned from WHL-imposed holiday break and the players were sitting around boasting about the best present they had received, when it got to the Captain’s turn. While his teammates had boasted about luxury items such as laptops, video game systems and mobile phones, Rypien’s best present was a pair of boxing shoes. “It just reflects back to his humbleness and sense of appreciation for everything he got,” said Regina Pats head coach Curtis Hunt to Walker. “It wasn’t about the bling, it was about whatever helped him become a better player and help get to where he wanted to go.”

24. “For me he was so special because here I was this 16-year-old rookie and he was this guy who would take on the world for his teammates,” said Schira a former Giant who played one season with Rypien, to Walker. “I remember struggling with my confidence at the start of the season and after one game in particular when I played well, he was the first one to come congratulate me. It just meant everything.”

25. “Everyone in the league saw him as this stone-faced killer, but on the inside he was just the nicest guy who cared about you on and off the ice,” said Kyle Lamb, Rypien’s roommate for one year on the Pats, recalling one particular life lesson he’ll never forget to Walker. “My dad had bought me a Pathfinder to drive out there, it was standard, and Rick owned a big green truck that was also stick, so he told me he’d teach me to drive it. We were stopped on this hill waiting for the light and without me knowing he slid it into neutral and when I set to take off we rolled down the hill, almost smashing into a car behind us. He was laughing his head off and said, “always look at the stick to make sure you’re in gear before taking your foot off the brake,” It’s something I still do to this day.”

26. “"He was kind of a man of few words, but once you got to know him he was just a great guy. If you sit down and have a beer, he’s not going to be the loudest guy in a group of people but once you get two, three, four guys around a table, that’s when you see his true colors come out. He’s funny and he had a heart. It’s sad now to talk about him." Tanner Glass explained, to the Montreal Gazette.

27. "He played the game with such reckless abandon and fearlessness," Former GM of the Pats, Brent Parker recalled of Rypien to Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press. "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."

28. As a Manitoba Moose, Rypien played hard. “He was the on-ice example of what we were, what we are, what we want to be,” said Jets co-owner Mark Chipman to Turner.

29. How important was Rypien to the Jets? When the newly minted club signed the free agent this past summer, the owner could barely contain himself. "That was one of the best days of my summer," Chipman said to Turner. "That was a fist-pumping moment. Beyond the announcement of joining the National Hockey League, for me that's what really brought it full circle. When we had one of our own come back full circle, that felt like the picture was complete."

30. "He (Rypien) goes down as my all-time favorite player we've ever had," Parker said to Turner. "Just because of the whole story; the underdog part and how he wasn't a big kid. He just overcame absolutely everything. And then he went, in the span of three years, from being undrafted out of nowhere to play in the National Hockey League. And the thing about him was that he was so grateful to anybody who ever did anything for him. There's been a big hole in a lot of people since he left."

Seven more things you might not have known about Ryp:

31. Rypien was four years old when he first got a pair of skates. (Karen Sum of the Vancouver Canucks)

32. Wendel Clark was his inspiration and hockey hero growing up because of the way he played and the fact that he was a smaller guy that always worked his tail off. (Sum)

33. Rypien was such a classy individual, that he actually wrote a letter thanking the Regina Pats organization and everyone that helped him along the way. (Found on the Regina Pats home page)

34. The Regina Pats re-named their “Unsung Hero Award” the “Rick Rypien Award” because he best exemplified hard work not just on the ice, but also what it meant to his teammates and all the work that Rick did in the community. (Regina Pats home page)

35. In his 17 years with the Pats, President Brent Parker collected just four keepsakes form the team: a signed jersey from former Pats star Barret Jackman, Jordan Eberle’s world championship jersey, a banner signed by the Pats Memorial Cup team and a photo of Rick Rypien. Rypien gave Parker the photo. He signed it, “Thanks for the privilege of being a Regina Pat.” (Randy Turner/Winnipeg Free Press)

36. Rypien planned on wearing Number 11 with the Jets, because that was the number he wore when he first arrived in Winnipeg and the number he wore playing for the Regina Pats. (Turner)

37. For several years Rypien and his old hockey buddies used to run a kids hockey camp every summer to give back to his community he was raised in. (Turner)