TORONTO– On November 13th 2010, then with the Vancouver Canucks, the late Rick Rypien suited up in a 5-3 victory at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I spoke with Rypien after the game about his job on the Canucks’ fourth line and what it was like to have to fight at any given time. We also discussed who he idolized, the idea of Vancouver winning the Stanley Cup that year and playing in Toronto.
Here is that interview:
What level were you playing when you realized you could fight?
RR-When I was younger I didn’t do too much of it. I was smaller then, actually really small. I didn’t really start growing up until I was 18. I always had that little edge and got into a few scraps when I was 15, nothing major. But as I played junior in Regina, in the Western Hockey League, I started fighting more and it kind of kept going from there.
So when you talk about an edge, is being a fighter your choice?
RR-No, but I think I had a lot of energy and I always liked that part of the game. My dad comes from a boxing background and my brother played hockey too and was a fighter. I picked up a few things from them and I do enjoy it too.
That brings me to my next question, how do you practice to be a fighter?
RR-I think you can do a couple things but an actual hockey fight, on the ice, I don’t think you can actually practice for it other than do it and get in a fight. I think some guys box or some guys throw punches but it’s totally different on the ice, a totally different technique. I think some guys might have it naturally and some might have to practice by just doing it on the ice.
Growing up who did you idolize as a hockey player?
RR-I more or less idolized my dad. I saw a lot of footage of him boxing and he was a Canadian champ. And a lot of smaller guys in the NHL. Obviously Wendel Clark, Tie Domi. I liked those guys and how they played; obviously smaller guys who could fight and play the game too. Anyone who was smaller and stood up to the big guys I always liked.
Toronto hasn’t beaten Vancouver at home since 2003, do you wish you could play here more?
RR-It’s a great atmosphere and a fun place to play. It’s one of the greatest places to play in the NHL. They’re in a tough spot right now but they have great fans and look to be working their way out of it. It’s a great place to play and it’s too bad we only come here once a year.
Are you surprised with how many Canucks’ fans are here in Toronto?
RR-Yeah, I think even last year too, we scored the first goal and there was a pretty good cheer from the crowd. You don’t see that too often anywhere else so it can be special.
Teams on a roll, do you see Vancouver as a cup contender?
RR-I think so, but right now there’s a lot of hockey to be played. If we take care of one game at a time, one day at a time, I think we’ll set ourselves up good at the end of the year.
After that interview Rypien played just three more games in the NHL and eventually took a leave of absence from the Canucks.
He returned and finished the season with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose as the Canucks finished the season Stanley Cup finalists.
Sadly, just weeks after signing in the off season to play the 2011-12 season with the Winnipeg Jets, Rypien committed suicide on August 15th, 2011. He was 27.
In the one year since his death a lot has come forward about Rypien’s health when he passed on, including what role fighting may have played.
Today, the anniversary of Rick’s passing, I thought I should share my conversation with him.
Rick Rypien: May 16th 1984-August 15th 2011