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(Article)Canucks: Rypien on Bieksa’s mind ‘a lot’


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BY JASON BOTCHFORD, THE PROVINCE AUGUST 28, 2013

This month is the two-year anniversary or Rick Rypien’s death, and his memory continues to echo.

There is, of course, Mindcheck.ca, the resource-based website dedicated to helping people understand the challenges of mental illness.

There is the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a legacy charity event that will be held Tuesday.

And then there is what happens on the ice before every Canucks game, quietly inside the heart of one of his best friends.

“I say a little prayer to him or have a little talk with him before every game during the national anthem,” Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said.

“He’s on my mind a lot. I still have pictures of him hanging in my house too.”

The second annual golf tournament will be fun. Bieksa will bring a few of his teammates with him to Mayfair Lakes Golf Course and Country Club. They’ll be out to keep the mood light. The focus will be on Rypien’s legacy, good rounds of golf and the money that will be raised. Last year, the tournament produced $23,000, which was donated to causes like Mindcheck.ca.

But it’s not always possible to avoid the heavy emotions involved in Rypien’s death. It sure wasn’t for Bieksa on Aug. 15, the day that marked the two-year anniversary of Rypien’s suicide.

“I made contact with the family and made sure they were doing well throughout the day,” Bieksa said. “But all the memories came back. It brought back some bad memories, for sure. How I found out. Where I was in my house.

“I remembered after putting my kids to bed, I was in the office and I got the call. I remember sitting my wife down and telling her about it. She was very close to Rick as well.”

During the past two years, Bieksa has become an active spokesman for Mindcheck.ca, overcoming his own apprehension about opening up to share the things that are nearest his heart.

“It’s pretty small relative to how big the problem is,” Bieksa said. “But we’re doing our part. We’re raising awareness in B.C.”

It is the reason Bieksa was the Canucks’ nominee for the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and part of the reason seven Canadian NHL clubs participated last season in Hockey Talks, a month-long initiative designed to raise awareness about mental illness. The hope is that one day it will include all 30 NHL franchises.

Bieksa has made it clear he’s determined to honour Rypien by bringing public awareness and support to those struggling with mental-health issues.

“There’s still not a whole lot of education out there,” Bieksa admitted. “If you don’t have a close friend or relative who suffers from it, you’re pretty unaware of it.

“I’m trying to educate players. I’m trying to educate people.

“It’s not the most comfortable situation for me. Some of those memories and moments (I share) are hard.

“I’m a private person and I like to keep those moments to myself.

“But the reason I share them is that it can help so many other people. I push myself out of my comfort zone to help out.

“This is what Rick wanted. Rick wanted to help out younger people suffering from the disease.

“I’m carrying out his wish for him.”

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/botchford

Raise-it-4-Ryp

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With the expectations placed on players at times to perform, it's important to remember that they're human beings. They "go to work" at times, with heavy hearts and things that they carry with them.

When you deal with someone close to you who is battling this battle, there's guilt at times. Did you do enough? Could you have done something different? The more we discuss this and support one another, the better off we (all) are.

Bieksa is one of my two current favourites for a reason. He's strong beyond his punches.

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It kind of sucks knowing that Bieksa is always carrying this feeling around, I want him to try and get rid of the bad stuff even though I know it is very difficult. I can only imagine how Bieksa is feeling.

I wish Ryper was still here. RIP

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Wonder if it's becoming harder for Kevin to play a rugged/nasty style? Appears research is showing how fighting & concussions are a pathway to eventual CTE. Will this change his approach to the game? He must feel mixed, as if he's confronting this divisive issue from both sides of the debate.

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It says so much about Bieksa as a person that he took his private pain and turned it into a public charity to help other people dealing with depression from either side of the disease. And I can think of no better way to honor how much he truly cared about his friend than that.

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This is exactly why Juice will always be my favourite. Dude can come off as fierce on the ice but he's a guy with a heart of gold that doesn't take himself too seriously. I'm praying he performs better this year than last, he deserves more recognition.

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Yeah, I really respect Bieksa's perspective.

I also think he catches far too much flack on these boards (regarding what is expected of his play).

Guys like him have made the difference in this organization.

A 5th round pick who stepped up pretty rapidly as a two way defenseman who has scored at a 40 point pace on a regular basis (36/82 over his career), while also being a shutdown sidekick to Mitchell and Hamhius.

I hope he remains paired with Hamhius - I think that's when he's at his best, playing with a stay at home guy who enables him to take some chances, rush the puck, and play an aggressive defensive style - Hamhius is the anchor while Bieksa 'unsettles' opponents. +50 over the past three seasons, with corresponding good underlying numbers, and lots of hits and blocked shots to go with the points. I hope he's healthy this year - I'm looking forward to what Bieksa can bring.

Where would the franchise be without those unexpected players that have emerged - Bieksa, Hansen, Burrows, Edler to a lesser extent, with Tanev and Corrado on potentially similar trajectories, and who knows, perhaps guys like Lack, Tommernes and Blomstrand are the next generation?

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