Regina Pats mourn death of Rick Rypien
For the third time this offseason, the Regina Pats family is in mourning and for the second time it involves a former member of the team.
The team has set up a book of condolence in memory of former captain Rick Rypien, who was found dead in his home on Monday.
Regina Pats President Brent Parker, who watched Rypien win the hearts of the organization and fans, remembers Rypien as a determined young man.
"In a three year span he went from an undrafted 5'10, 150 pound guy playing Tier II hockey in Crowsnest Pass to three years later playing in the National Hockey League. It was all out of hard work and drive and commitment and doing things the right way."
The way he played and the way Rypien handled himself off the ice made it easy for Parker and organization to make him their captain.
"He epitomized everything we want our young guys to be."
Tough news to hear
The news of Rypien's death started to trickle out last night and left Parker in a daze, "I think I drove about two kilometers down the road that I don't even really remember. It was just kind of a fog. Then you start with flashbacks and memories and then you start thinking is this summer ever going to take a positive turn. It's been a pretty rocky road."
It was the third time Parker has faced the media with tears in his eyes after a close family friend died in a car accident outside of Calgary with a junior hockey player behind the wheel. And it was just three months ago when a book of condolence was set up for former Regina Pat Derek Boogaard when he was found dead from a toxic overdose of alcohol and pain killers.
While the details around Rypien's death are not the public's knowledge, it is described as sudden and non-suspicious from the RCMP.
Questions need to be asked
Stories of Rypien's fight with depression have now become known with some saying it dates back 10-years, which covers his time with the Regina Pats.
Parker says he was unaware of any depression although he knew there were some tough times for the teenager.
Before a game in Calgary with the Pats, Rypien's girlfriend at the time died in a car accident on the way to the game, "I remember his dad coming down after the game and taking Rick home for a few days, but there was never any indication that there was anything that severe. It just seemed like your typical teenage issues away from home that he had to deal with."
Parker acknowledges that Rypien sacrificed his health to get to the National Hockey League by dropping his gloves. Parker believes the hockey world has to ask some tough questions, despite there has been no link to the punches he took to the head and Rypien's depression.
"We'd be burying our head in the sand if we didn't ask these tough questions. I think the more situations like this that we have the more questions that need to be asked and some very pointed questions need to be asked to the right people because once, twice, a third time it becomes more than just a coincidence."
Parker has been left asking himself those tough questions since finding out about the news.
"Was there things you could have done differently? Was there more we could have done? You're always second guessing those kind of things. There's no question he took some blows. Whether that was a direct reaction to his problems, I don't know, that's for medical people to determine. But it's something that I know I've questioned and asked over the last 24 hours."
The book of condolence will be set up outside the Pats office at the Brandt Centre during office hours for the public to sign.