Rick Rypien, a 27-year-old player for the Winnipeg Jets, was found dead in his southern Alberta home Monday.
Nine months ago, Rypien, a cousin of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, had taken a leave of absence from the NHL in order to deal with an undisclosed personal matter. An official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the Associated Press that his death was sudden but not suspicious.
“Rick was a talented player with an extremely bright future,” the Jets said in a statement. “His hunger for the game made him a valued team member both on and off the ice. This loss has impacted us as more than just a hockey team.”
Rypien is the second young NHL player who has died this year. Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died of an accidental overdose of oxycodone and alcohol in May.
Rypien, an Alberta native, signed a $700,000, one-year deal with the Jets after playing parts of six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He was granted an indefinite leave of absence, his second in three years, by the Canucks last November. In October, he had been suspended for six games for an incident with a fan during a game in Minnesota. That suspension was the longest handed down for a player-fan fight in 28 years. Rypien. also took a leave of absence during the 2008-09 season after suffering a series of injuries. He missed 70 games.
Last November, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis discussed Rypien’s leave of absence in general terms. “I can’t talk about Rick’s situation, but when you come to know somebody and realize they’re a really good person, who has their heart in the right place and wants to do the right thing not only for themselves but for others, you have to support them,” Gillis told Vancouver Sun columnist Iain MacIntyre.
“You don’t only support them when they’re at the top of their game and doing everything you want, you support them when they’re not feeling good about things or have other issues they have to deal with. These are young people that have a lot to offer, a lot to live for, and you support them in any way possible.”
Angela Rypien, Mark’s daughter, tweeted Monday night: “R.I.P Rick Rypien, I love you so much and will miss you more than anything!” and “Please keep my family and I in your prayers on this very difficult day today!”