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Struggling with clinical depression throughout his career, Rypien’s mental health was eventually made known to the Vancouver Canucks organization during their 2008 training camp; the team consequently coordinated his treatment for the remainder of his tenure with the team. Among his teammates, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa was the first Rypien confided in regarding his depression. During his first leave of absence in 2008–09, Rypien disappeared. Bieksa met with Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger, who Rypien had a close personal relationship with, in Edmonton and drove to Rypien’s Alberta home in search of him. Upon finding Rypien, Bieksa brought him back to Vancouver to live with his family. When Rypien returned from his leave, he was assigned by the Canucks to the Manitoba Moose. Upon arriving in Winnipeg, he publicly spoke about his absence, commenting that “doing the work I’ve done the last couple of months I’ve made a lot of gains as a person.”
A month-and-a-half after signing with the Winnipeg Jets, a family member found Rypien dead in his Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, home on August 15, 2011. The cause of death was confirmed as suicide. Rypien had been scheduled for a flight to Winnipeg the previous night to have his knee evaluated that day. When he did not meet his appointment, Heisinger (who had since become the Jets assistant general manager) attempted to locate him. Following his death, Heisinger told media that Rypien had been suffering from depression for more than ten years. Jason Jaffray, a former Moose and Canucks teammate who had also recently signed with Winnipeg, expressed surprise at Rypien’s death, explaining that while he was aware of his mental health, he felt he was “a new man and…the happiest [he’d] ever seen him.”
Several hours after his passing was announced, Canucks fans began assembling a memorial outside of Rogers Arena. Two days later, a fan-organized gathering of approximately 300 occurred at the memorial.Rypien’s memorial service was held at Alberta Stella Arena (where he had played his minor hockey) in Blairmore, Alberta, on August 20. Bieksa was on hand as one of the casket’s pall bearers. He was one of numerous former teammates, general managers and figures from Rypien’s hockey career in attendance. In the subsequent 2011–12 NHL season, the Canucks honoured Rypien with a ceremony prior to a home game against the New York Rangers on October 18. With Rypien’s parents, step-parents and brother on the ice, a four-minute tribute video was shown on the jumbotron. Bieksa further presented the family Rypien’s game-worn jersey from his last season as a Canuck. The team also announced a $50,000 donation in Rypien’s memory to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. The amount, which included contributions from the NHL Players Association’s Goals and Dreams program, was designated to fund a promotion strategy to help youth and young adults cope with mental health issues.
Rypien was one of three NHL players to have died in the 2011 off-season; the other two were New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard and the recently-retired Wade Belak. Following Boogaard and Rypien’s deaths, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told media that the league would look into their substance abuse and behavioral issue programs – initiatives that both players had been involved with (Boogaard’s death was due to a lethal combination of alcohol and oxycodone).
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