I'm never one to promote the aspect of fighting in hockey, but it happens. The normal enforcers are usually pretty big guys who don't do a lot of scoring, but they seem to do the dirty work being that they are big men. Derek Boogaard? 6'8" and 257 lbs. Georges Laraque? 6'4" and 245 lbs. Donald Brashear? 6'3" and 237 lbs. All of these men are considered heavyweights in the hockey fight world. So how does a 5'11" guy take down some of the biggest men in hockey with regularity?
Rick Rypien was a fan favourite during his time with Manitoba. His penchant for sticking his nose into high-traffic areas while scoring some key goals made #11 one of the guys that fans in Manitoba loved. It was apparent that the kid was tougher than nails when he happened to drop the gloves, but those soft hands could also be counted on for some offense when given the opportunity. Like all power forwards, Rypien looked like he was emerging to be one of the greatest players to ever pull a Moose jersey on.
The only problem was his size. There aren't too many power forwards who stand generously at 5'11" and weigh in at 170 lbs. Rypien didn't let his lack of size change the way he played the game, and Rypien's smashmouth style earned him a regular shift with the Canucks. From the time he arrived in Vancouver, Rypien hasn't backed down from anyone, and he's now being spoken about as one of the toughest men to play in the NHL.
The leftie has dropped NHL heavyweights and giants such as Boris Valabik, Zack Stortini, Brandon Prust, Hal Gill, Cody McLeod, and Ben Eager. And that's just this season alone. He also thumped Andy Sutton in the pre-season. That's a pretty impressive list of names, and all of them are much bigger than Rypien. Let's take a look at the little man who is standing tall.
Valabik (6'7", 245) vs. Rypien (5'11", 170)
Stortini (6'3", 228) vs. Rypien
Stortini vs. Rypien - Round Two
Gill (6'7", 241) vs. Rypien
Make no mistake about Rypien, he has the respect of all of his teammates and this author. The Moose and Canucks have loved having this guy in the line-up, and the profile that the Canucks did really shows how much both teams appreciate the young man.
While he hasn't put up the numbers of a Jarome Iginla or a Sidney Crosby, Rypien is an infectious energy guy. He throws checks, he forechecks hard, he scores when he can, and he drops the gloves when someone does wrong to him or his teammates. He hustles on every shift, and this shorthanded goal should prove his dogged determination.
I'm proud to have seen Rypien play, and he was always a favourite of this hockey fan. Vancouver Canucks fans will find that he may not dent the twine as often as the Sedin twins, but the intangibles he brings to the rink every day are exactly what championship teams need.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!