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We'll Miss you Rick...

The sudden death of Rick Rypien has most hockey fans shocked and saddened. It is never easy to witness a young life come to an end far so early, regardless of fame, stature, prestige or level of success. In this case the cut is a bit deeper due to the the events and circumstances leading up to it. Rick was often referred to as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the NHL. Having the pleasure to watch him fight was a true delight. He was a little bulldog who had lightning speed punches that often perplexed is often larger adversary.

It was comical to hear a discussion about his fighting on the radio recently, where the Team 1040 cited the fact that Rick and Zack Stortini (then of the Oilers) engaged in numerous bouts, and in each case Stortini seemed surprised and stunned by the fact that Rick was a south paw fighter and how quickly those punches came at him. This appeared to be the case no matter who he fought. He was an athlete who wore his heart on his sleeve and was there to support every single teammate.

According to Tanner Glass, he was a great friend. Glass mentioned that Rick was a very modest guy, who was a great teammate always there to support someone on and off the ice. He acted as a motivator to younger players and never aired his grievances to the team.

Unfortunately he did have to take two separate personal leaves of absence from the team. In both instances the public was not given many details, but it became clear that substance abuse was not the issue, and Rypien's mental state was. This past season he only played 6 games, and this culminated in Minnesota when an enraged Rick grabbed a fan by the shirt on his way to the dressing room. A sad way to leave the game of hockey in the NHL. However, Rick did return one more time to the AHL at the end of last year and had a positive impact in his short lived return.

In the off-season, Rypien signed a one year contract with the Winnipeg Jets. He spent many years in Manitoba playing for the Canuck's former AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose. Apparently it was like a second home to Rick, and he had a very close relationship with the new management of the Jets, since there are many overlaps with staff between the newly relocated NHL franchise and the former AHL team. Moreover, former teammate Tanner Glass was going to join Rypien on this new adventure in Winnipeg and both of them were said to be very excited. That is a confusing part of this whole situation. Friends, family and colleagues have come out and said that they had conversations with Rick in the weeks, days and even hours leading up to his demise and in every case he was upbeat, excited and had a positive outlook on the upcoming training camp and NHL season. There are no reports that explain what happened but fans that know the story can easily come to that conclusion. That is what makes this tragic occurrence even worse. After a short life time of hard work and dedication to accomplish the dream of making the NHL, Rick apparently could not continue. Furthermore, it should be noted that he was undrafted and had to prove all critics wrong in order to actually make it to the "big show".

At 27, Rick was far too young and had so much more life to live. He spent part of 6 years in Vancouver and I agree with those in sports media who claim he was just scraping the surface of his potential. Aside from fighting Rick had great speed, energy and at times offensive capability. It is truly upsetting that we will never know how good he could have been. A very unfortunate waste of potential. My thoughts, prayers and positive wishes go out to all those who knew him. RIP Rick Rypien

Written by: Michael Elias http://hockeywithme.com

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