Friday, 17 August 2012

One Year Later

Today is a quiet day on the hockey front, especially if you're a Vancouver Canucks fan, Winnipeg Jets fan, or just a fan of Rick Rypien in general. One year ago today, Rick Rypien took his life tragically, and the topic is still very present in terms of the battle that he faced every day within himself. Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak, and my own friend, Brad Drake, have all succumbed to a battle within themselves, making the problem with depression a very real one that should be talked about in very honest terms.

Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, Kris Versteeg, and Kevin Bieksa all took part in a charity hockey game this evening in Crowsnest Pass, Rypien's home, to help remember Rypien's battle. For Bieksa, it's a particularly hard day as both men shared a special bond in rising through the Manitoba Moose ranks before rooming together in Vancouver as members of the Canucks.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think of Rick, and I am thankful for the opportunity to join his family and friends in an evening celebrating his legacy," Bieksa said in a statement. "Coaching and visiting with these kids gave us a chance to remember what was important to Rick: giving back to kids through the sport of hockey."

New hockey equipment was donated to the Crowsnest Pass hockey community through the NHLPA's Goals & Dreams fund, and a memorial plaque and photo album in memory of Rypien were given to members of Rypien's family.

Former NHL goaltender Clint Malarchuk is one of the lucky ones who has battled through mental health issues and now leads a normal life. However, his battles included alcoholism and what was thought to be a suicide attempt. Malarchuk understood the battle that Rypien was going through and offered to help, but the young man never accepted the offer.

After having his neck sliced open by a skate in 1989, Malarchuk's battle with the onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder kept him awake at night replaying the incident over and over. The thought of the trauma drove Malarchuk into depression as his hockey career would never be the same.

"I had been a fan of the kid," the Alberta-born Malarchuk said about Rypien. "He made it on hard work and guts. I’d heard a lot of good things about him. he reminded me a lot of myself."

The leave of absence also sounded a lot like Malarchuk. Malarchuk knew that if Rypien wasn't reached out to, that the consequences may be tragic. When Malarchuk's wife read one year ago that a hockey player from Alberta had died, Malarchuk's worst fears had been confirmed.

"I said, 'I hope it's not Rick,' but I was right," Malarchuk said.

From personal experience, I know that those suffering do not want to speak about the troubles with which they are dealing. Brad Drake, a good friend and valued teammate, fell into the same trap where he was either unwilling or unable to speak about his battles. If you suspect someone is dealing with their own problems, please ask. Embarrassment is temporary, but things could be much, much worse.

And if you're reading this and you feel like you're struggling with your own battle, seek out help. No one has ever been ridiculed or turned away because they ask for help. Admitting you need help isn't weakness; it's a step on the path to being normal. Everyone needs help in this life, so don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for it if you feel your load in this life is being bigger than you can manage.

Rest in peace, Rick Rypien. You were a good man.

Until next time, raise your sticks high!

1 comment:

TedNes said...

It was a dark summer last year for the NHL, no doubt about it. I was acquainted with Wade Belak during his tenure here in Toronto, and it really knocked the hell out of me when I not only heard he was gone, but that he had taken his own life.

Growing up playing hockey, I lost a friend at the young age of 14 who also chose to take his own life. Things weren't going well in his world, from a crappy hockey season, to girl and school problems. To take the step however to end your life, you must be in a very dark place. None of us saw it in my friend's case---now that I think about it 30 years later, yes, there probably were some signs, we were just 14 and didn't realize such things.

The biggest thing is help, whether it's alcohol, drugs, depression, marriage problems. Having someone to talk to is important, but even then it's tough to draw things out. Guys may feel they are being wusses by opening up. We all have our demons, dealing with them in many different ways. Maturity and aging is one thing that helps to put things in perspective---sadly, in Rypien's case, or in the case of my friend taking his own life 30years ago, they'll never get that chance to look back and realize this. Realize that what was so damned important and upsetting to them at that time was in fact just life happening, and that there is life after the shitstorm....