One of the best goalies in Womens Hockey - Noora Räty may end up retiring from Hockey at 24 years of age - because she cant find a competitive & paying league to play in.
Imagine right now Carey Price, or Tuukka Rask quitting hockey right now because they could not find a team to play for in a league they felt was at their skill level. Absurd right? I mean if they were for some reason unable to play in the NHL, they would have the KHL as a viable back up. Rask could surely go home & play in Finland & be a star there. They have options. Lets also take into consideration, neither of them are even in the top 5 goalies in the game right now at 26 years of age.
This brings me to Noora Raty. For those who dont follow women's hockey outside of the Canada/USA battles, Raty has been for a few years now 1 of, if not at times, the best goalie in the world in women's hockey. She has backstopped Finland to wins over the U.S. in the World Championships, Four Nations Cup last year & the Hockey Canada Cup here in 2010. A feat that is few & far between for teams not from Canada.
Raty carried her college, University Of Minnesota to back-to-back NCAA championships. With a career mark of 114-17-8, including a 38-0-0 mark in her final year with 17 Shutouts. She holds the record for career shutouts & single season shutouts in women''s college hockey. As a teenager she won the Best Goalie honours at the Women's World Hockey Championships, twice. In 2008 she was given the MVP of the entire tourney. Noora Raty was the best goalie in the world, and she wasnt even out of her teens yet.
Winning an Olympic Bronze medal in 2010 will be the highlight of her international career. Her two NCAA titles will be the only major championships she will likely ever win in the sport. The reason is, Noora Raty, at just 24 years of age, will likely retire.
Early retirement isnt rare in women's hockey. Some do it due to injuries, others do it to start up families. But rarely has there been someone in the women's game, still near the peak of her career retiring because she cant find somewhere to play that still wants to. This is a situation unique to Raty right now, but not unique to the women's hockey players as a whole.
Despite the feverish crowds that Canada-USA women's games get on both sides of the border, there is no professional women's league. The only pro women's hockey league currently of note is in Russia, and Raty herself has stated, it isnt "the best". North America has a women's league. The CWHL, but it isnt pro. Players travel expenses and equipment are paid for, but they do not pay the players to play. Players are expected to carry on with real every day jobs, and play a sport they love, for essentially free. This is the top level of competition in North America right now for women's hockey, a free league that doesnt travel outside the eastern time zone.
Raty stated in a very public statement on twitter that she needs a league that can challenge her (CWHL could do that) and pay her (the Russian league can do that) but finding 1 that does both is not an option at this time. Noora could play mens hockey. An option she likely has considered. Perhaps she still will. But what about all the others? What about Raty proving herself against other women's players? Growing the game? This seems to be something Noora seems eager to do. She wants to be paid AND play against women.
Noora Raty's very public plea yesterday on twitter might not help a league form in time for her career, but hopefully it will be instrumental in getting things in motion for such a league very soon. Hopefully one that can pay players, and more importantly expland beyond an area so small you can drive from the furthest 2 points of the league in a few hours.
Women have a professional basketball league, backed by the NBA. Its in its 17th season coming up, has 12 teams. With a minimum salary of $35,000 a season.
Women have a professional soccer league. The NWSL and while it pays very little comparatively, it does at least PAY its players. Minimum $6,000 a season. But there are also professional leagues in Europe for them to go to that pay much, much better.
So why is there no professional hockey league for women in North America? I'm not saying it has to pay WNBA level salaries just yet, but it could, if it had the right marketing behind it.
Cue the NHL. Like the NBA's involvement in women's basketball, the NHL could vastly boost the image, and viability of a women's league. Association with regional teams would bring recognition and would almost instantly boost the sport. It would also allow payment for services. The NHL is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut in sports, yet, no involvement in trying to develop a women's league or game. They have no problem tossing money at markets that failed from the get go, and trying to sway fans over seas with tours there that include actual regular season games. Lots of money to waste on those ventures. But women's hockey? Nope. Despite the NHL using women's hockey stories to get a few more eyeballs on broadcasts, puck dropping ceremonies & traffic to their website. That, they can do. They have no problem USING women's hockey moments & players to promote hockey, just dont put any actual money into it.
Somewhere today in Sochi, Russia Tuukka Rask is probably going to have a meal that he didnt have to pay for, and will be indifferent to the experience or even annoyed that its not what he would usually have. Noora Raty might very well have that same meal, and just be glad she didnt have to pay for it, with the $0 she earns doing the same job, and so far, more successfully in less years on this planet. Tuukka Rask will get $7M U.S. this season. He is 1 of the top 20 goalies in the NHL, MAYBE even top 10. He will make $7M because a team felt having 1 of the top 20 at his position is worth that. Noora Raty is 1 of the top 5 in the world for women, even arguably, the best. Yet no one is paying her, despite the fact shes done more in her career than Tuukka (never played a second in the playoffs in the 2011 Cup year) who still has no major accomplishments in his career outside of a bronze at the World Juniors. Noora is also 2 years younger than him. Peter Budaj, the 3rd string goalie for Slovakia this tourney is making $1.4M as a back up for the Montreal Canadiens, the same team that employs Carey Price at $6.5M.
Surely, there can be a league, that values Noora Raty enough that she can make at least 10% of what the 3rd string Slovakian goalie in the Olympic mens tournament currently makes. But, I also thought there should be a professional women's hockey league as well. Maybe there will be. Maybe the NHL, with all the hair brained schemes its put together to try & create new revenue streams will finally go "hey, how about a women's hockey league?". They put a team in Phoenix Arizona, and in a swamp in Sunrise, Florida. Surely women's hockey is less of a risk than those zany ideas. Figure it out quick National Hockey League, before 1 of the sports greatest retires, at just 24 years old.
A little side note I found as I was looking to see if there was any last details I missed. Noora finished 63rd on The Hockey News 2013 list of 100 most influential people in hockey..... ahead of 37 mostly NHL based people. Are you listening NHL? There are women players of influence, you just need to open your eyes before its too late.
Heres a few photos of this hockey phenom from the two times I got to see her in Vancouver. During the 2009 Hockey Canada Cup & the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medal game.
NHL Trade Deadline Day Tomorrow. My guesses on where Roberto Luongo might find himself Thursday Morning
Roberto Luongo, at a Vancouver Canucks practice in January amid rampant speculation of being traded. 2 & 1/2 months later, he is once again in the same spot as NHL trade dead line day is tomorrow.
With the trade deadline now less than 24 hours away, the speculation on where a variety of players might be dealt is at a fever pitch. Roberto Luongo of course being the most discussed name in Vancouver.
This has me wondering, where might the Canucks all time leader in pretty much every goaltending category find himself come Thursday morning. I have narrowed it down to some of the more likely & perhaps, less likely situations for the man called "Luuuu".
- Toronto Maple Leafs
We've actually been hearing this since before the
dawn of time...or so it seems. Lui to Toronto makes sense for the Leafs. A team that is currently in a playoff position, but without a playoff goaltender. They also are kicking the tires on Miikka Kiprusoff, so we will see what goes on there. But Lui as a Leaf isnt an all too insane theory at this point. It will come down to if the Leafs have what the Nucks want in return.
- Vancouver Canucks
Chances are pretty good come Thursday morning Luongo could be staying put. Right now, this seems like the more probable situation with the way goalies have been dropping into the trade rumour mill lately & Gillis insisting on wanting reasonable market value back for his prize keeper. For now, the 1/1A set up in Vancouver has done decently and Luongo has kept the team player mentality by not griping about it publicly if he actually has any animocity to it. Perhaps he has come around to staying here for the rest of the year & has eased up on subtly e-mailing Mike Gillis articles on prospects from the Leafs & Panthers who have done well in a recent game.
- Florida Panthers
Ideally, this would be a dream come true for Lui. He
really would embrace a move to Florida, plus it would give him a few extra weeks vacation time to work on his poker game & think up some clever tweets. Florida is going nowhere this year, and could certainly be looking to unload some of their veterans who might want to see a playoff game or 2. Canucks would be eager to get a useful part back for Lui with a prospect or two. Florida has plenty of both currently. Florida could part with 1 of the several NHL capable in a year or 2 prospects they have with either Theodore or Clemmensen so the Canucks get an NHL capable back up in return. Both teams would surely be pleased with what they get.
- New York Islanders
This will be a far more realistic scenario if the Islanders also go out & get Miikka Kiprusoff & Ryan Miller tomorrow. My theory that Charles Wang has asked Garth Snow to stockpile goalies in the hopes of trying out a goalie rotation idea similar to baseball teams pitching rotations is quite realistic. With Nabokov, DiPietro, Poulin & Thomas already, they are getting close to this dream.
- River Rock Casino
Probably a less likely scenario, but in a fit of rage,
Roberto opts to retire immediately & focus on his budding poker career, only to return a week later after losing repeatedly when opponents learn to just hum Chelsea Dagger while at the table with him.
Maybe its because I just saw the new GI Joe movie last night, but what if Mike Gillis isnt actually Mike Gillis, but a clone made up of microscopic nanites that has been sent by Dean Lombardi or Chuck Fletcher? If the Sedins also get traded or waived, this theory should be immediately investigated. In any case, I suppose this COULD happen & thus Roberto might end up on waivers.
- Hockey Night In Canada
Lets be honest. Don Cherry is getting close to
retirement & HNIC is looking for the next larger than life personality to throw in there. With Brett Hull seemingly M.I.A. and Sean Avery being hated by everyone, including his own mother, the amount of likable & entertaining personalities in the NHL to throw at the public is a slim pool currently for CBC. Brendan Shanahan seems unwilling to step down from the job he has, despite failing it massively. While Craig Conroy probably couldn't fit whatever he is going to say every week into a 5 minute segment, so this means there is still an opening. With Lui at the help, the CBC could team up almost anyone with him & they would seem less boring... except for PJ Stock.
- Toronto Blue Jays
If he can pitch, maybe he will go to Toronto for a
different reason than to tend goal for a hockey team. Granted, he would be more suited as a catcher, and that too is something the Jays desperately seem to need
after watching the opening day game. He already has a catchers mask & is used to playing without a goalie stick. The change of positions doesnt seem too much of a stretch.
- TV or Movie Star
After Luis epic acting job on the TSN video of him & Schneider getting along earlier this year ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ap8tlQ3oZ0 ) it seems possible Roberto could just drop his stick
& blocker & pick up a script. I'm thinking a buddy comedy movie with Steve Carrell maybe.
Really, whatever team he is with Thursday morning, there will be a Starbucks in that city... so this is actually the most solid guess I have.
Whatever happens tomorrow, the fact is, Roberto Luongo will be somewhere Thursday & it will of be most likely of his own choosing since he has a No movement clause in his contract. It is also a near certainty that wherever he is Thursday some people will be happy & disappointed with it. Personally, I will be fine with him staying here. I like the fact that we have 2 #1 goalies. Its a position that you really cant afford to be thin on, and for now, we are not. If he moves on, I'll wish him luck wherever he goes.. I just might not cheer for whatever team he is on.
Uncertain where he will ply his NHL award & Olympic medal winning trade this season, current Vancouver Canucks superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo arrived in Vancouver today.
With the NHL lockout over (as soon as the NHLPA ratifies the deal this weekend) & training camps starting any day, the franchises all time leader in wins & shutouts returned to Vancouver to prepare for the possibility that he could still be a Canuck this season despite a plethora of reports, blogs & tweets stating he almost certainly will not be with the Canucks come the season opener in just over a week.
With trade rumours swirling around the multi-time all-star goaltender, the media in Vancouver were eager to get some comments from him on the situation. However... they were not THAT eager, as the group of print & television reporters almost missed the 6'3 man & the porter escorted trolley of bags & equipment going thru the passenger only portion of the terminal out a side door
The man often known as simply "Luuu" stopped for the 4-5 reporters for a 3-4 minute chat about the lockout, his relationship with Cory Schneider, his training regiment during the break and of course...his feelings on the trade speculations among other things.
Below is the interview as I heard it (sorry about background noise...airports are a loud place). None of the questions are mine, I let the people who are paid to do this ask the questions. Also added a couple of photos from before & after the interview took place.
After a marathon bargaining session that lasted longer than it took me to watch a complete TV series, the NHL & NHLPA have tentatively agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The minimum length of it is 8 years, with a maximum of 10 yrs on the current deal.
Some of the early details of the agreement that have come out so far is this.
- 2013/14 season Salary Cap will be $64.3M
- Contract length maximum is 7 yrs for free agents, 8 yrs for players you already have.
- the lowest paid year of a contract cant be below 50% of the higest paid year.
No date on when training camps or the season starting date have come out yet. Length of this shortened season has also not been stated yet.
The marathon session, which started Saturday afternoon in New York City, ended early-morning on the east coast, after a 15-16 hour bargaining meeting with mediator Scot Beckenbaugh ended with the new tentative deal which still needs to be ratified by the NHLPA & signed off by a plethora of lawyers.
While many sports journalists & hockey insiders were feeling more & more optimistic as the night dragged into day, it wasnt till a tweet from Denver Post reporter Adrian Dater stating the lockout was over that the news was out there.
Within a minute of Mr. Dater making the tweet, practically ever hockey reporter that was awake was making similar statements on facebook, twitter & on T.V.
The real work for the NHL starts now however. While Canadian mad hockey cities will regretably come back in short order like the victim of an abusive relationship, wooing back fans in American southern markets where NFL football, the NBA & the fact MLB Spring training is just weeks away will dominate the sports landscape is going to be a task comparable to finding a respected hockey writer that will pick the columbus Blue Jackets to win the Stanley Cup this year. The damage of this lockout will be hard to pitch to fans of Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Nashville, San Jose and probably even the rest of the U.S. cities where any variety of NFL, NBA, college sports teams playing there have completely swallowed up any left over sports fans looking for a fix.
If any good comes out of this 3rd lockout in the NHL in less than 2 decades it is this... Teams like Florida, Phoenix, Carolina, Tampa, Nashville might not survive because of the lockout. Their feeble fanbases have likely been cleared out to just the most rabid fans. Relocation or contraction for these teams is needed.... and maybe, we might get that in the next couple years now.
In the next few days tonnes of NHLers & hopefulls will head to their teams respective training camps and the fans that still exist will have moved from ranting about how much they loathe Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, and rant about how their team got screwed by the lockout because they lost so & so due to the lockout.
Now that hockey is back, you can start feverishly trying to analyze who might win the Stanley Cup this year. On that note, let me give you some help there.
Every post-lockout Stanley Cup winner has had these exact same traits.
- U.S. based team in the Eastern Conference
- Based in the eastern time zone
- never previously won the Stanley Cup
- Canadian Captain
So unless the Washington Capitals take away the C from Ovechkin or the Florida Panthers name a Canadian Captain, it will be the Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville hoisting the Stanley Cup this season.
This past Wednesday afternoon & evening about 750-1000 people came down to Rogers Arena to pay their respects over the course of a 6 hour event put together by a group of fans on facebook to celebrate the life & career of former Vancouver Canucks player Rick Rypien.
With solely the word of mouth and social networking sites like facebook and twitter, the small group of volunteer fans managed to create an event that hundreds showed up for throughout the day. With no time to plan, the group managed to make things work. With help from the local Costco, who donated chairs & tables to use for the volunteers the group of 6 or 8 people brought books of condolences for fans to sign, and received well over 400 signatures in there. Even more came down to sign the pilar that the fan tribute monument had completely taken over. The girls who started the tribute a few nights earlier were there to see the love & support the rest of Canucks nation felt for our fallen hero. Even though there was some apparent minor vandalism after the 1st night, the massive display that encapsuled all 4 sides of the pilar, the ledge around it and the ground must have let the group who started it know that their efforts were appreciated.
Below is photos from throughout the day of the event. Some are close ups of specific items or messages left. Some are quick snaps of people writing or leaving tokens of their appreciation. Some, are of fans showing their appreciation in other ways such as wearing a Rypien jersey, standing with a Canucks flag for what seemed like an eternity, and the group who started the monument all writing 37 on their wrists.
If you see a photo you really like. Feel free to use it. I WOULD LIKE it if you reference where you found the photo..but I will be fine if you dont. If there is a photo of something of yours, or of you, and you want a larger copy of the photo...feel free to ask me.
More fan tributes for the late Rick Rypien adorn the pilar outside Rogers Arena - and my take on the depression issue and how the NHL should be forced to acknowledge and deal with it
Its been a little over a day & a 1/2 now since Rick Rypien, the former Vancouver Canucks rugged winger was found dead in his Alberta home.
The fan tribute I photographed last night, with a dozen or so comments & trinkets had grown today to probably a 100 or so messages, several bouqets of various flowers, and more photos & fans visiting.
Wednesday afternoon (later today), there is an unofficial tribute memorial scheduled to take place in front of Rogers Arena outside the Roger Neilson statue where the makeshift memorial has sprung up. From 2 PM till 8 PM fans are welcomed to come down, and sign a book of condolences & thanks.
My last blog talked a lot about Ricks rise to the NHL from an unlikely past. Today however, I will talk more about Rick the person, his off ice issues, and those around him who tried to help and what this should mean for the NHL.
Rick was dealing with depression. Going on reports I have read from various articles & blogs today, this issue has gone back a decade. It was a serious & heavy topic for someone to deal with as a teenager. Looking back, his off ice issues of years gone by, very likely were emotional boiling overs of this past tragedy that he couldnt shake.
An email from a former team mate of Rypiens on the Regina Pats for 3 seasons alluded to a personal tragedy of the former Canucks player from back when he was a teenager. Don Washcuk said in an email sent to the Jason Gregor for OilersNation in this article.. http://oilersnation.com/2011/8/16/reality-good-and-bad
"I was fortunate to be a teammate of Ricks for the better part of three years with the Pats. At that time he suffered a horrific personal off-ice tragedy. As 17 and 18 year olds, we never knew how to act or help him through it. It was sort of just pushed aside and we never spoke of it. Perhaps if we were properly educated on these sorts of issues we could have recognized what was going on, and in some way made a difference. I have only great memories of Ryp and I offer my deepest condolences to his family. He will be greatly missed and perhaps we can all learn from this tragedy."
Knowing now, what fans & media know about how long Rick had felt these feelings, the events of yesterday are all more tragic. He was just simply unable to "deal" with something that life had given him. We all have things in our lives, especially by the time you are 27 that get you down, that make you hurt. For some, it is easy to just battle thru it & move on. For others, they dwell on everything. Each disappointment or problem weighs on them far more than anyone, including their friends & family, know. This appears to be the path Rick Rypien had been dealt. Regardless what level of NHL accolades he ever reached, happiness was never going to outweigh the sadness he felt for issues from his past that were out of his control.
The Vancouver Canucks tried twice to let him solve his inner demons. They gave him 2 no questions asked leaves of absence from the team. In the pro sports world, that is unheard of. Many athletes arent even given 1 chance, let alone 2. But the Canucks saw potential in Rick, they liked Rick, and they eagerly wanted him to not just be a valuable asset as a player for them, but a better person. The NHL as a whole tried to make Ricks return to hockey as uncomplicated as possible. They gave the Canucks a pass on a rule allowing teams to only have players on the farm for 2 weeks on conditioning stints. This allowed the team the mobility to leave him down there for the season, to give him a stable environment to get his game back on track, and to not force the team into a situation where they might be forced to put Rick in a situation he wasnt prepared for, whether that be back in the NHL or on waivers, and possibly go to a team where his safety nets were not the same, if any.
The fans & media as a whole gave Rick as much room as you can expect. Yes, some asked some questions. Some even asked some questions that were perhaps too much. But they were in the vast minority. For the mostpart, the fans gave Ripper the privacy he wanted to deal with a situation that no one knew or possibly understood.
Everybody did what they felt was best for Rick Rypien the person. In the end, somehow, it wasnt enough. Did Rypien feel he was undeserving of all the accolades? Perhaps? Maybe something deep down made him feel that anything he did, regardless how well he did it, was never going to be enough for someone, or something.
Rick Rypien SHOULD have been a success story. He was earmarked for the storybook ending. A little guy who fought all the odds against men bigger & stronger than him, yet somehow perservered. He overcame not getting drafted in the WHL let alone the NHL, he overcame injury after injury to resume his NHL career. These are the stype of stories that you generally see & in the end, it is a feel good story. This sadly, doesnt have that ending, and so far, few if anyone knows why.
When he signed with the Winnipeg Jets last month, most fans in Vancouver & Winnipeg, where he played his minor-pro hockey truly thought "good for you Rick, good luck, you will do well there". All parties were happy for him. Everyone thought it was another step in his amazing storybook story. That chapter however, never got written. Instead, somehow, the author of the book decided to end it with a cruel twist.
Even those of us who deal with depression cant say "I know what hes going thru" because you likely dont. Its a condition, a disease that everyone deals with and reacts to differently. The NHL will certainly be questioned about what it does to ensure their players are of good mental health, and that might be 1 shining beacon of positivity out of this tragic story. Rick Rypien's death might somehow open the door to discussing a situation that pro sports as a whole refuses to engage. Mental illness amonst their athletes. They are, afterall human. They are prone to the same personal, emotional & physical problems the general public is. In the general public, in Canada alone, there is about 3500 suicides a year (not to mention attempts, and just personal depression). That number is primarily male, and primarily in the age bracket of 16 to 44...the age range of NHL players. So with the NHL's entire workforce meeting these 2 criteria, shouldnt they be more aggressive in making their employees aware that there is hope As well making the players aware of the warning signs of a colleague who might not be well? If anything from Rick's death can be taken away as a positive, its the hope that the NHL will take his death seriously, will work harder to ensure this doesnt happen again, and that someone else down the road will be saved because of those efforts.
If the NHL is having trouble finding a shining beacon to show help can work, perhaps they should ask Hall Of Fame forward Bryan Trottier. The former Islanders legend considered suicide himself over financial problems. He however eventually got psyhiatric help, and is still here with us today, on the NHL Oldtimers Hockey tours.
Whatever the NHL does. They need to address this issue NOW. Their hand has been forced. Rick Rypien in his last action, took the fight to the NHL. Ripper rarely lost a fight on the ice. The NHL needs to assure that the battle he had off the ice for happiness were not in vain. They need to make Rick's death matter. Not just for his legacy, which deserves it...but for their own PR, and more importantly, their employees.
Below is a few more photos from the tribute memorial for Rick outside Rogers Arena (where his celebration of his career and life will take place later today). While I was there, I ran into the girls who set up part or all of the original display. Thanks to them for taking the time to start that for all the fans.
Remember TODAY (at least when this blog was posted) August 17, 2011 from 2 PM to 8 PM outside Rogers Arena near the ticket widows (right across from Stadium Skytrain station lower entrance) there will be a celebration of Ricks career & life.
So far 460 people have confirmed on facebook their intention to show up.
By now, if you are a Vancouver Canucks fan, or even a casual NHL fan, you have certainly heard of the all too soon death of Rick Rypien.
To most of his fans, Rick Rypien is the epitome of heart & soul. He was the guy, no matter the opponent, he would step up and go for it. Whether it was someone his own size like Brad May, or a heavyweight like Zack Stortini the man known affectionately as "Ripper" took them all on. Most hockey fans considered Rypien, at only 5'11, 184 lbs the "pound for pould toughest guy in the league".
Rypien seemed to have 1 of those "little guy makes it despite the odds" stories. Starting back in the AJHL with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves Rick showed that he was willing to fight anyone, with 147 PIM in his only season for the Junior A team, before moving up for 1 game to the WHL's Regina Pats.
Despite being undrafted in the WHL, Rypien's work ethic impressed the Regina Pats enough to give him a chance In 3 full seasons (and his 1 game 1st season) Rypien earned 179 GP 47 G 77 A 124 PTS 491 PIM in his time in the junior league. Rypien also proved to show leadership skills, so much so, the team named him team Captain, as well, he won the team MVP award once, the Molson Cup award for most 3 star selections & was named the teams "most popular player".
After his junior career completed. Rypien, undrafted by the NHL, earned a tryout invite with the AHL's Manitoba Moose (the farm team of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks). In Manitoba Rick had a rough 1st season, ending after only 8 games with the minor-pro team.
In the summer of 2005 Rick signed his first NHL contract with the Vancouver Canucks & had the chance to make the big club. Despite not making it to the NHL out of training camp, Rick worked hard in Winnipeg & eventually got a call up to the big club in December, and got into 5 NHL games. In his 1st game December 21, 2005 he scored a goal on his 1st shot. For a kid who couldnt even get drafted into the WHL, this was a major accomplishment. Unfortunately, in his 5th game, he would suffer a broken leg that would sideline him for a large chunk of the season.
The next couple of seasons would see Rick go up & down from the farm team to the Canucks. But almost without fail, the rugged winger would be sidelined by a vast variety of injuries from injured fingers to torn groin to a sports hernia. It was at this time when Rick took his 1st personal leave from the team. Looking back now, many wonder if this was the first major warning sign of what history would have in store for him.
In the 2009-10 season & last season, it seemed that Rypien may have finally put his past issues with physical & mental issues behind him. Then he had an unfortunate incident in Minnesota where he grabbed a fan. Shortly after that, the league suspended him for 6 games.
Upon his return, Rypien found it tough to get back into the line up full time. he managed 1 more career point after that, in a game vs. the Ottawa Senators on a Tanner Glass goal. On November 17th, 2010, Rick would play what most didnt realize at the time, his last NHL game against Sidney Crosby (whom he had 3 partial or full shifts against that game) & the Pittsburgh Penguins. He only had 3:50 of ice time in the game, and afterwards was given a 2nd leave of absence from the team for personal reasons. It was at this time that media and fans really started to wonder & worry about Ricks personal health. It was his 2nd leave of absence from a game he seemingly loved, this 1 was following an issue where he abused a fan. Lots of rumours were swirling of what his "issue" was. Some thinking drugs, others thinking emotional. Till this day, no one from the organization or Rick himself has said exactly what it was.
In March, he returned to hockey. He reported to the Manitoba Moose for conditioning. The NHL even helped with his return, giving the team a pass on the mandatory 2 week conditioning stint rule. This allowed the team to keep him with the Moose. It gave the team some salary help, it gave Rick a stable place to play and get his game back on track. It seemed like a good fit. On May 1st, 2011, Rick Rypien played his last pro game. A playoff match in round 2 of the AHL playoffs for the Manitoba Moose against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
As an unrestricted free agent for the 2011-12 season there was lots of potential for Rick's future. On the 2nd day of UFA season, he signed with the Winnipeg Jets. Showing his commitment & appreciation to owners of the team, who previously owned the Manitoba Moose, the team that gave him his 1st pro chance. Unfortunately for Jets fans, they will never get to see what Ripper could do on the ice for their team.
It hurts to know on a personal level that a guy I saw quite a few time, who was always personable, friendly and even a couple times, joking with us was suffering so much. He twice tried to deal with his issues at the risk of jeopardizing his career. Luckily, the team stood behind him and gave him the room they hoped he needed. Somehow, with all this support & help, it wasnt enough.
I realize this is reading more like a novel. I meant for this originally to just be a quick couple paragraphs & a thank you to Rick for all he did with our team & how he treated the fans off the ice. But I just kept writing more & more, because his story is just so hopefull & heartbreaking.
I got to see Rick play a couple times. Oddly, I only ever had 3 shots of him (that I am aware of). Only 1 in game shot, and a couple of him stretching in warm up. I added those in to the pics below.
This evening, just hours after the news of his death, some fans went to Rogers Arena and started a tribute to honour & remember him. I walked by there around midnight. maybe only a couple hours after the monument had been created. Several written messages adorned a pillar on the grounds of his NHL home. Some tea-candles had been placed in a pattern to read "R37R", his intiails, surrounding his jersey number. I am sure by the time I get back there later today, it will be a much larger tribute.
Rick, I wish someone could have found a way to make you happy, to make all the personal issues you were dealing with seem easier to deal with. My condolences to the Rypien family, to Ricks friends, and of course the rest of his fans who are saddened by this terrible loss.
EDIT - It has been brought to my attention there is a planned "celebration" of Rick's life & career for 2 PM, Wednesday August 17th, 2011 outside Rogers Arena. If you can make it, I suggest going.
This might date myself a tad, but I recall where I was in 1994 on May 24th. I was at home in New Westminster, tightly clenching my hands together in a tightly clenched prayer style shape. What happened to make me do this? The Vancouver Canucks, the local NHL team here was in double overtime against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs in game 5 of a best of 7 series we were leading 3-1. If we scored, we went to the finals for only the 2nd time ever (the first time I too lived thru, but didnt really understand the severity of it at the time since I was of an age still in single digits, we would lose in 4 straight games in the finals that year to the New York Islanders). A B.C. boy by the name of Greg Adams, whom we obtained in a trade with the New Jersey Devils several years prior would score the eventual winner 14 seconds into that 2nd overtime on a backhander that he slipped by future Canuck Felix Potvin. We were headed to the Stanley Cup finals. It was monumental in this cities sports history. We eventually would lose in the finals to the New York Rangers in game 7 by a narrow 3-2 score, but that moment is to many in Vancouver, 1 of the cities biggest in sports history.
So imagine the shock to Canucks fans who have endured that once before, when 17 years later, we found ourselves on May 24th, in a Western Conference finals, with a 3-1 series lead, in double overtime at home...again. by now, every die hard Canucks fan, casual fan, fairweather fan & even some non-fans know how that game ended. It ended with 1 of the zaniest series clinching goals ever, as Kevin Bieksa knucklepucked a shot from the point past an unaware Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks. Of the 18000+ fans in attendace, 2 TV crews & dozen players on the ice, it seemed maybe a 1/2 a dozen people total were aware that after an Alex Edler dump in off the boards that the puck deflected off a stanchion & back out into the middle of the ice. 1 of those rare people, Kevin Bieksa. The Canucks defender moved in towards the puck that gifted itself to him & drove a hard slap shot towards the Sharks net that wobbled & skipped its way past a confused Niemi. Fans were so unaware of what was going on, they only reacted when the likes of Alex Burrows & Henrik Sedin, near the net reacted. Sharks players reacted, but far too late, even Kevins own teammates were not all aware of what was about to happen. Another generation of Canucks fans will remember that moment, regardless how the finals end. Its 1 of those moments that sticks with you. Just like Greg Adams in 1994 on the very same date.
Of course, after the win, while the players partied in the dressing room together, fans did the same, out in public on the streets of downtown Vancouver. Granville street was completely closed off to traffic, as fans poured out to high five other strangers, wave their towels & flags & yell any & all phrases they could think of to express their jubilation. I saw a faux greenman, I saw an even sadder imposter- a blue man, I saw 30+ Stanley Cups of all types roaming the streets, being hoisted high & I also saw 2 creatures (pictured below) that I still dont have an explantion for, dressed in Henrik Sedin jerseys, sporting what I can only describe as some type of weird egg type head gear.
A couple of observations. The crowd seemed quite content & happy. Never saw even 1 angry look from 1 person to another. Im sure there were some mild issues, but they were few & far between...unlike when I was in Edmonton during their Cup run where there was stabbings almost nightly it seemed. There was also sadly for us guys (and girls here wonder why the world over consider girls here "snobby") no Red Mile action like in Calgary during their Cup run. The boobs in this town refuse to come out. To be honest, the overall electricity & excitement of the crowd, while high, was still short of anything I have seen in Edmonton, Calgary or even Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. Will it be different if they win the Cup??? Perhaps. Starting June 1st, the Vancouver Canucks will try to do something they havent done in 39 previous seasons, 23 playoff appearances & 2 Finals appearances. Win the Stanley Cup. The oppnent, yet to be decided. Either the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that crushed the Calgary Flames hopes last time in 2004, or the Boston Bruins, the team that last lost a Championship to 1 of the Western Canadian teams in 1990 to the Edmonton Oilers. One thing is certain, Canucks fans probably are pretty thrilled, it wont be a team from New York.
Before you start envisioning where you will place the "Stanley Cup Champions" pennant in your house Canucks fans, just remember, we are only 1/2 way to a possible franchise first championship.
True, the Vancouver Canucks finally shook the 2nd monkey off their back these playoffs, but its far from over.
The most recent demon they exorcised was that "getting past round 2" demon thats haunted them for 17 seasons, 9 previous playoff years & 5 previous round 2 match ups.
This time, the stick of Daniel Sedin launched the city into round 3 for the 1st time since their miracle run of 1994 when he helped the Nucks beat Nashville Predators in game 6 2-1.
So whats in store for us now? A date with the San Jose Sharks. The team who finished 2nd in the Western Conference to the Canucks, 5th in the league & are currently the 2nd highest ranking team left in the post-season.
Its a new challenge for them. The past 2 WCF the Canucks made, they did not face top ranked teams. The Toront Maple Leafs werent the Norris division champs in 94, the Chicago BlackHawks werent the Norris division champs in 82, hell, the Hawks werent even as good as the Canucks that year in the regular season. This is the 1st time the Vancouver Canucks have faced an actual division champion in round 3.
With questions surround the play of the Sedins, and more recently Henrik's health, as well as Mikael Samuelsson's mystery ailment, some do actually wonder if this team will be able to make the finals this time. Sure Ryan Kesler has been a beast & Roberto Luongo has been good enough, but they are now going up against a team that was legitimately a contender this season.
Now the Canucks are the demon a team is looking to exorcize. The Sharks have been perrenial contenders for several years, but never made it to the Stanley Cup finals. They have found themselves in the conference finals twice this decade, but never managed to get to the finals. Last year the Hawks did them in, in 2004 it was the Calgary Flames.
This is, in my mind, the first real test for the Canucks. The Sharks have far more scoring depth than Chicago did, certainly far far more than Nashville. They have a goalie that is coming off a Cup win last year in Antti Niemi, who after a slow start this year is really back in the zone. They have a defense core with over 300 NHL Playoff games & 3 Cup winners on it. They have a forward group that consists of 3 Olympic Gold medal winners, a silver medalist, a Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, a Calder trophy, 2- 50 goal seasons & 1 Stanley Cup. This team actually knows what winning feels like, just not together.
I still feel the Canucks can win this series, but it will be a dogfight. Round 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starts tonight in Vancouver, and for the next 2 or so weeks, Vancouverites will be in a continual state of near nervous breakdown till the final horn goes, regardless of the outcome.
I will be the first to say, I didnt know Derek Boogaard at all. I thought I did a bit, but reading articles on the 6'8 NHL enforcer today, I really wonder "who is the man that I met so many times?".
Of course, most of you reading this will already be aware of the tragic news that Derek Boogaard was discovered in his Minnesota apartment yesterday dead of still unknown causes.
Boogaard was known on the ice as a tough as nails fighter who was arguably known around the league as perhaps the toughest player in the league. The "Boogeeyman" as he was known by fans & foes was a menacing force on the ice. Few if any opponents wanted to face him in his specific role as enforcer. In his chosen role, he was extremely good. Of course, he did lack other hockey skills that made him a limited range player, but he understood what was going to keep him in the NHL & didnt try to play too much outside of his skill set.
Off the ice, the Boogaard I had seen over the years started off as a pleasant, personable enforcer (as many are actually), but had at some point become less friendly with those of us on our side of the fence. He was terrible at engaging with autograph hounds, and no better when it came to fans. In his defense, his treatment of us, the professionals, quite warranted. We did probably give him his jaded outlook about interacting with fans by continually having a multitude of items for him everytime he came here. Fact was, he was a popular commodoty in Minnesota, and we knew it. So, as time would go on, Derek started to become less receptive to any requests. However, like many who get that jaded over autographs & photos with, he took the same approach to fans as well. Everytime the Wild came to Vancouver, there was 1-2 devoted diehard Wild fans there, at least 1 or the other came every game & Boogaard treated them with the same respect as us, despite it being abundantly clear, they were not like the rest. Its THAT Boogaard that most people here remember unfortunately.
Usually, this type of attitude off the ice is a strong indicator of the type of person someone generally is. Sure, you always hear all the great things about someone after they pass away. I mean I am sure even Sean Avery would have great things said about him if he died, maybe even Gary Bettman. Fact is, unlike them, Boogaard probably is/was a good guy, we just got a bad vision of him because frankly, we probably took advantage of him some. The fact that I can actually recall him being good with fans & hounds alike is something that I cant say of others. Somewhere deep down, he was probably still "that guy", we just never got to see it.
Boogaard will be missed. Fans of the New York Rangers, who enjoy tough guy hockey players will miss him. Many Minnesota Wild fans, where he developed his game & became a popular figure for some years will miss him. His team mates & ex-team mates surely will also miss him. His fans from across the league, who appreciated the type of game he played, will miss him. Hockey as a whole, will miss him. He afterall is 1 of a now rare breed of true enforcer. His loss is truly a loss for hockey as well. He wasnt just a player, he was a character, a player with moderate name recognition, a fancy nickname & 1 of the few remaining pieces in the NHL who still played hockey the way many remember & miss, with unabashed toughness.
Reading an article by Minnesota area writer Michael Russo today on the death of Derek Boogaard titled "So Long To The Boogey-Man" http://www.startribune.com/sports/blogs/121826023.html made me doubt I really knew the Boogeyman at all. His story about the 28 year old Saskatchewan native made me honestly well up a bit, something I would have bet money someone could not make me do. Its hard to envision a softer side story to Boogaard, yet Russo managed to put one together. He talked about various charities that will also be missing Derek, about how funny he was to talk to & about how he understood what his role was & was fine with it. I really wish we got to see this Derek Boogaard more, and not the one who would walk by us stone-faced & ignorantly ignoring everyone, including some of their most die-hard fans. Now we will never get that chance.
Of course the people who will miss Derek Boogaard the most are not the fans who only know him from his on ice work, its his friends & family who knew him off the ice. His 2 brothers, sister, parents & other family have lost a part of their family today. His friends have lost a part of their daily lives.
You did not have to be a fan of Derek Boogaard to appreciate the efforts he made on the ice & off it. He will be missed by family, friends, fans & the sport as a whole. Rest in Peace Derek.
Canadagraphs Hockey Blogs
From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.