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Rypien on Bieksa's mind "a lot"


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http://www.theprovince.com/touch/story.html?id=8845175

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.

[b[“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."

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