Yesterday we saw the distinct difference between sports and real life. It was a good day for hockey, but it was also an awful one.

Let’s start with the good: The Hockey News picked the Oilers to finish last in the Western Conference.

I’m sure Oiler fans are wondering how this possibly can be good, but stick with me.

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It is good because it gives us a topic to debate, and when you consider the bad – Rick Rypien’s passing – this prognostication isn’t that worrisome.

Before you Oiler fans start ripping the Hockey News for being stupid, irrelevent, anti-Edmonton or any other colourful phrase/adjective, keep in the mind that they predicted the Oilers would finish 30th last season. They might not be perfect, but they are far from uninformed or biased.


Most smart Oiler fans have already erased last season from their memory.

You’ve forgotten that the Oilers finished a whopping 35 points out of the playoffs.

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You haven’t sat down and realized that they had 18 fewer wins than any playoff team in the western conference.

Hell, they had five fewer wins than the 14th place team in the western conference, but none of that matters now.

Taylor Hall is a year older, five pounds heavier and much stronger. Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark will surely improve on their 43, 34 and 27 point campaigns.

Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff will be healthy for the majority of the season.

Devan Dubnyk will emerge as a solid netminder, and a 14-day stint in tent city has given Nikolai Khabibulin a new perspective on life; so he’ll be hungry to prove he is a still a solid NHL goalie.

The additions of Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Andy Sutton and a more mature Theo Peckham give the Oilers "functional" toughness. and that will surely make them harder to play against.

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Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid will finally play with some consistency and become bonafide top-four D-men.

Cam Barker will emerge as one of the best UFA signings of the summer. He’ll play with a chip on his shoulder all season, and he’ll show the doubters in Minnesota and Chicago that he was worthy of being a top-five pick.

Sam Gagner will put an end to the hottest debate in the Nation; and emerge as a 65-point player.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be the "Jeff Skinner" of the 2011/2012 season. Even though many doubted his ability to play as an 18-year-old NHLer,  he will surprise many and produce 45 points.

And of course having the best combination of hockey hair in the NHL, Ryan Smyth and Ryan Jones, will ensure the Oilers won’t finish 15th in the west, but instead they will compete for a playoff spot.

The Hockey News’ obvious disregard for all of these "facts", will allow you to mock them endlessly come April when the Oil play their first playoff game in six seasons.

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What’s good about THN’s prediction is that it gives sports fans something to discuss and debate. It allows you to write, blog, text, tweet and talk about the upcoming season with such passion and certainty that you forget about the real world.

What’s great about prognosticating articles is that none of truly know how the season will unfold.

I think it is highly unlikely the Oilers finish 15th, but I also doubt they will make the playoffs, however, I’ll be anxiously watching and analyzing how the season unfolds. 


The bad arrived when we heard that former Vancouver Canuck and current Winnipeg Jet, Rick Rypien, passed away. Rypien was only 27. He spent seven seasons in the Canucks organization, with the past three and a half being in the NHL with the Canucks.

Rypien stood 5’11" and weighed 195 pounds. He was a small compared to the heavyweights that he fought, and often many of us wondered how a guy that small in stature would willingly drop his gloves to fight guys who were much bigger. I found out today that Rypien had been fighting a battle that was much tougher than any on-ice opponent he’d ever faced.

He struggled with mental illness.

What saddens me the most is that some will want to use Rypien’s unfortunate passing as a way to further their own anti-fighting stance. Some will suggest that is was fighting, and the possible injuries he sustained in those fights, that led to his battle with depression.  Many will choose that route because it is much easier to debate the merits of allowing fighting in hockey than to look at the bigger issue in this situation; Depression.

For the past few years it was quietly whispered, but never discussed openly, that Rypien was battling depression. We’d rather discuss the merits of fighting instead of the symptoms and signs of depression, because, frankly, the topic of fighting isn’t as uncomfortable.

It turns out that Rypien had been battling depression well before his NHL career.

Dan Waschuk played with Rypien for three years in Regina. He emailed me an honest insight into what likely started Rypien’s struggles. 

"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."

Many of us, including me when I was in my twenties, think depression is just an excuse for being lazy or unmotivated. "What does he/she have to be depressed about," is a common response. Unless you’ve battled depression it is hard to fully understand or describe how one feels. I’ve seen people very close to me suffer from it, and while I’m much more sensitive and understanding to their plight, at times I just can’t relate to how they are feeling.

I’ve learned that showing empathy rather than trying to understand why they feel the way they do is a much better course of action.

Sports are supposed to be entertainment and an escape from our daily lives. We watch it and dream about what it would feel like to win a championship, score a big goal, cash a fat cheque, but rarely do we focus on the human element of sports. We have enough stress or concern in our own lives, so in many cases we don’t want to think know about the downfalls of our sporting idols.


With Rypien’s sudden passing, I’m left wondering why he and the hockey world felt inclined to keep his battle a secret. Was he worried he’d be ridiculed? Would it taint his image as a rough and rugged hockey player? It might have, but I think he would have received many more emails and letters of support and courage rather than ridicule.

I’m not blaming anyone, because I’m sure it was an extremely difficult situation. I asked because we have recently seen some other athletes go public about their battles with mental illness.

Joey Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, talked candidly about his battle with depression in this 2009 interview with Richard Griffin. 

Here are a few snippets of that article. 

I was having panic attacks and they were overwhelming me to the point where I needed to go to the hospital on two separate occasions – once in San Diego and once that nobody had been told about. I went to the hospital in Cincinnati when the team was on the road. It was a very, very scary and crazy night where I had to call 911 at three or four in the morning. It was probably the scariest moment I had ever dealt with in my life. 

I really hadn’t acknowledged how important it is to express the things I was dealing with," Votto said. "To have someone to talk to is really important. To be able to talk to someone and say this is what’s going on, that’s been the most important part.

In July, Miami Dolphin receiver, Brandon Marshall, talked openly in an excellent piece by Omar Kelly about his Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

"BPD is a mental illness that studies say is more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but is rarely diagnosed because of misperceptions in the mental health community, and the challenges of providing a proper treatment plan.

The disorder is marked by difficulties with relationships and self-image and controlling moods and emotions."

Sports fans are humans, and even though the comments in blogs don’t always reflect that, the majority of fans are sensitive and caring. Taking fun shots at players, writers and commenters about their production or opinions is one thing, but usually when we read about real-life hardships most comments are positive and supportive.

I understand the urge to want to find a connection between Rypien’s fighting, possible concussions and his depression, but in this case it seems his battle started well before his NHL fighting days.

And if they do study his brain what happens if the results don’t find that connection? Will the same sports writers or bloggers ask more questions? Will they try to uncover more about the struggles of living with depression, or will they turn to another subject that isn’t as uncomfortable?

Sadly, I think we know the answer.

My sincere condolences to the Rypien family. No father or mother should ever have to bury their 27-year-old son.

If people are looking for a cause to support from this case, it shouldn’t be their feelings about fighting; it should be to debunk the stigma attached to mental illness.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Great article Jason, hits home on many points.

    Thomas Drance over at Canucks army posted a good blog for Rypien there, first time i’d ever seen his fight with Hal Gill… just amazing.


  • As one who has battled severe clinical depression throughout my life, I really appreciate what you’ve done here Jason.

    Rypien should be universally lauded for his heroic attempts to battle his demons.

    His issues had nothing to do with his role in the NHL but were a result of things that were far beyond his control.

    He was so close to realizing his dreams…and that was really the problem.

    Very sad.

  • John Chambers

    I have tremendous respect for the True North Group who run the Winnipeg Jets. Not only did they realize the dream of brining an NHL team back to small market Canada, but they really look after their people.

    Rypien is a great example. I watched him play several seasons with the Moose, and if you ask any of his former teammates they all liked him as a guy who would stick up for them. The Jets gave Rypien a 1-way contract, likely so that they could keep him close to the fold and give him another crack at success given that he played with such loyalty for the Moose for so long.

    Definitely and unfortunate passing. The Canucks / Jets have lost a truly great person.

    Great write up, Jason.

  • Over the past couple years, I was informed that someone close to me had a mental illness. I can honestly tell you that the way my mind works, I just dont get it. With that said though, I spoke multiple times for long periods of time to this person and came to realize that they were really comforted that I wanted to learn more about it and just flat out bs about it. No judgement, no nothing…..just talk. Iove learning about things that I dont understand.

    To keep it short, i have a whole new respect for mental illness and how it can consume someone. In my opinion, im all for making open channels for people to talk about whatever they want. Society has gotten so worried about saying the wrong thing that they dont even talk anymore. No topic should be taboo, it should only be explained. Try listening to what people have to say and not just hear the words they are speaking

    • Captain Ron

      A fantastic 5 star article written by Jason Gregor followed up by an equally brilliant comment by you. “Try listening to what people have to say and not just hear the words they are speaking”. When you incorproate this into your relationships they will go to a whole new level of fulfillment for everyone involved. As someone who has experienced depression I can not emphasize how important it is to allow a depressed person to speak without being judged. No matter how trivial their dialogue may be. Your understanding and advice is admirable.

  • Mitch

    With the greatest of respect to DSF – I don’t think you can know that his mental illness wasn’t related to his role in the NHL. It might have been a pre-existing or genetic thing but it could well have been exacerbated by brain trauma that accrued over the years. There is, IIRC, a pretty well documented connection between brain trauma and depression. It’s obviously not a necessary precursor – there are people who struggle with this illness who’ve never been punched in the head – but I don’t see how it can be ruled out on the evidence presently available.

    Jason – your point about depression being an illness is well taken. It is distasteful how some people are drawing a connection between his death and his role without a lot of evidence being laid out.

    With that said, I don’t think people are writing about it because it’s easier to write about depression than fighting in hockey. Most sports writers/bloggers are into sports, rather than medical issues. It’s a legitimate question to raise, although people who want to do so should treat the evidence responsibly and there isn’t much at present. With that said, the evidence of a causal link between brain injuries and depression is pretty indisputable and there is mounting evidence that blows to the head cause permanent damage. I don’t think it’s irresponsible or unfair for people to be pointing that out.

    Frankly, the chiding of people who have the inclination to do that kind of comes off as a bit of a way to dodge that debate. “I’m not talking about that because I want to talk about the real issue: depression.”

    Say it turns out that Rypien’s brain absolutely supports a connection between fighting and concussions/depression. Just pretend a doctor said “Yep, that’s what did it.” Would you change your view on fighting in hockey? Reading this, I suspect not.

    Whether their interventions are appropriate or not, the people who are genuinely interested in the cost that fighting inflicts upon those who do it are at least trying to be honest about the costs of it, something a lot of the people who like it try to ignore.

    • Jason Gregor

      I have first-hand experience first with the connection between concussions and depression, with my sister and rugby. And it is ugly.

      However, his junior teammate and former GM admitted his depression had been around for over a decade. So it seems pretty clear it wasn’t ignited by a concussion. Waschuk said it was from an off-ice traumatic experience, and it wasn’t from a fight off the ice.

      I don’t see how a doctor could suggest there is a direct connection between fighting and concussions/depression in this case, since there is proof it was caused by a traumatic experience.

      It seems similar to Joey Votto’s story in that way. We will never know for sure if his fighting made it worse or not, so I focused on what we know thus far.

      I also would think there are more people who suffer depression that wasn’t brought on by concussions compared to those who were. I wanted to make that clear.

      This wasn’t about fighting in hockey, that was my point. I’d watch the game with or without it. The fighting angle seemed to take away from the issue in this specific case.

      We can gladly debate the merits, costs and risks of fighting in any other article, but, according to those who were close to Rypien, his depression didn’t start because of a concussion, and I felt it was important to make that known. I also back tracked Rypien’s injury history and I couldn’t find one that mentioned a concussion. I’m not saying he didn’t have one, but I couldn’t find a record of one.

    • Jason Gregor

      You either didn’t read the entire article or chose not to digest the fact about Rypien’s off-ice trauma.

      I’ve read many stories about this and Gregor was the first one I saw with a quote from a junior teammate talking about it. It seems he got the facts, rather than the “maybe” arguement regarding concussions and depression.

      I also don’t see how Gregor saying he was saddened is really chiding anyone. He was completely accurate in that sentance.

      Most of us have read about the correlations between head injuries and depression, but it seems that Rypien wasn’t one of them.

      That was the point, and you seemed to miss is. Instead you tried to make this about fighting, which makes me wonder if you are one of those who thinks this should about fighting.

      I hope I’m wrong in that assumption, but your post made it seem like you are more concerned about that than depression. My apologies if I’m wrong in assuming that.


      I enjoyed this article, especially the comments and insight from his teammate. Depression is very scary and can tear apart a family.

      I know it shouldn’t matter, but do you have any idea what the traumatic experience was?

      • Chris.

        Gregor is too classy… But the New York Times and Winnipeg Free Press both cited the death of Rypien’s girlfriend in a car accident as the liklely trigger for his depression. She died en route to watch him play during his second year with the Pats.

        • Chris.

          Good article here….


          Peter Engelhardt and his family billeted Rypien during the three full WHL seasons he spent with the Regina Pats, for whom he served as the captain as a 20-year-old.

          Engelhardt recalls one particularly low point during Rypien’s tenure with the Pats.

          “While he was living with us, his girlfriend was killed in a car accident,’’ he said. “That hit him pretty hard. I’m not sure she was going to be his wife some day, but she was a girlfriend that he liked. He was more focused on hockey while he was here than he was on girls.

          “(His girlfriend’s death) was pretty tough. He had a couple of weeks off after that incident, where they let him go home and just deal with things. Did he start showing things? He had changed a little bit, right then and there. You know what? Everybody’s going to, when you have something like this happen.

          “Did we foresee something like this coming? Absolutely not.’’

  • Captain Ron

    Thanks for the very thoughtful response Tyler.

    I really don’t want to discount the role of brain injury in this process, in fact, my own symptoms may have been a function of a brain injury.

    But, from what I’ve been able to glean about the life of Rypien over the past few hours is that his condition pre-dated his hockey career and was likely genetic.

    Speaking from the point of view of one with similar symptoms, my best take on things is that he couldn’t handle the pressure of success.

    He had heroically made his way through junior hockey, captained the Pats, and was undrafted and battled his way to the NHL the only way he knew how.

    Upon becoming arguably the best fighter in hockey, that success weighed heavily on him in a way that only individuals suffering from depression can understand. There is a feeling of unworthiness that pervades day to day existence no matter how much positive reinforcement and monetary recognition is provided.

    Thus, you saw the on ice meltdown in Minnesota which, internally, was designed to relieve that pressure since it removed him from the situation that was causing him so much trepidation.

    His hiatus from the Canucks would have been a godsend and it was fantastic that the Canucks and Moose were so supportive but it was being signed to a new one way contract with the Jets that brought all the pressure back to bear.

    Outwardly, nothing could have been better but, in a sense, it was the worst thing that could have happened since it made him face, once again, his feelings of unworthiness.

    If his mind had been in a comfortable place where he could accept the value others placed on him, he would have been fine. But, obviously, he wasn’t there and the pressure to be someone that others thought he was didn’t mesh with his own sense of self worth.

    I know I’ve rambled here but I’m trying to make the point that fear of success, not failure, can be very debilitating.

    We’ll likely never know if his fighting career had an impact on his condition but, in my opinion, it’s unlikely.

  • O.C.

    Fifteen years ago, we blushed and fumbled for words when people mentioned breast cancer. The same was true for prostate cancer not five years ago.

    Then we talked. We learned.

    Education on depression is necessary.

    A depressed person needs support, in all facets of their life.

  • paul wodehouse

    DSF said…”…Outwardly, nothing could have been better but, in a sense, it was the worst thing that could have happened since it made him face, once again, his feelings of unworthiness…”

    …this explains it ALL in one sentence for me …as only one (you DSF) who suffers could possibly explain …nicely put…

    …it gives me a huge insight as to why he may have just had to end it all approaching the new season with the new club & of new expectations from himself alone…again nicely put

  • Deep Oil

    I believe Hockey has some issues, when NBA player Ron Artest (NEW WORLD PEACE) thanks his therapist on television after a championship win, you can feel change.

    I have more of a problem with the NHL and NHLPA, sugar coating tragedy, reporting that in the Boogaard death, that it was an accidental mixture of oxy and alcohol. When you get a legal prescription for oxy (hill billy heroin), the doctor sits you down and tells you if you consume alcohol with this RX, chances are you will die. Now with his brother charged with a felony (unlawful distribution of a prescription), you just roll your eyes on what the NHL security and NHLPA knew at the time or the way it was presented to the public after the fact.

    I think the NHLPA and the NHL has to be more in touch with their members via the player’s own agents. The cost of having members intentionally or by accident ending their lives is a fight worth fighting.

  • Great article. Well researched, respectfully worded.

    I would like to add that to me it’s obvious why this goes unannounced in the league: It’s a debilitating “injury” that would prevent a player like Rypien from success in the NHL. It can’t always be “rehabbed” and would label a player persona-non-grata to most teams (I mention Brule dangerously, without any real knowledge of his situation).

    In fact, I would be surprised to hear that NHL teams are experienced and equipped to confidently see a player through depression, but I will suggest that most teams see those guys as un-employable.

    • Chris.

      I disagree, depression can be managed and doesn’t automatically prevent someone from achieving success. It’s not just ‘feeling sad’, it’s an altering of the chemicals in the brain which regulate mood. I’ve lived with an anxiety disorder for the past 16 years or so, and personally have found a medication which works very well for me. The problem is, like others have said before me, removing the stigma associated with mental illness. Doesn’t mean you’re ‘weak’ or ‘crazy’, just that you have an illness and need some help managing it. Are NHL teams avoiding Nick Boynton because he has diabetes? Or Tom Poti due to his severe allergies? Don’t think so.

      • First off, I’ll agree that you are much more in the know about anxiety disorders (one “strain” of depression) and I congratulate you on the hard work it must take to contain/ conquer it.

        I never suggested that people suffering from this are “weak” or “crazy”. My pal who suffers from severe depression often can’t get out of bed without the aid of drugs that turn him into a zombie. Hard to function in the NHL if this is the case.

        You have found the right combination of drugs, hammockgirl, but to assume that this is the case for all who suffer depression is a huge oversight.

        Are you seriously (after your own experiences) comparing severe depression to diabetes? Allergies? You should know better. If Poti’s allergy drugs made it hard to skate, he wouldn’t be in the NHL. Fact.

        My initial point was that if an NHL GM who’s job is to win has a choice between a player of standard mental health and a player with a history of diagnosed difficulties, who’s he gonna sign? I hate it too, but it’s pretty clear.
        I said this in response to questions on WHY the league doesn’t hear about these type of problems – I’m sure because it’s not a “physical” problem the player and agent don’t disclose it – because like it or not, it affects the player’s income and employability.

        • Absolutely I am comparing it to any other disease. Just because it is an illness of the brain does not make it any better/worse than an illness to any other part of the body. And yes, some treatments work for some and don’t for others, everyone’s different. Sorry if you interpreted my post as saying there’s a ‘magic pill’ that will help 100% of sufferers. I’m just saying that it isn’t something that you can’t overcome.

          • Okay this is getting a bit silly.

            If you’re suggesting that severe depression, it’s symptoms, and it’s treatment are the same as diabetes or AIDS for that matter, then this is a conversation that nobody will walk away from any wiser.

            I would never say depression or anxiety are impossible to treat and overcome. That’s obvious.

            Fact is that some treatments and symptoms for some diseases allow for an NHL career, and some for other diseases don’t. This is obvious logic.

            More obvious (hard to hear) logic is that if you’re an NHL GM, you must have a healthy lineup, or at least be able to manage treatment of players to a point where there is a specific timeline to having them back on the ice.

            These are my only points. We agree on most things… but please. An illness of the brain is indeed requiring a different approach and treatment than allergies.

          • Mitch

            Ugh, this is why I don’t usually bother posting. Rypien had a 7 year NHL career. So how can you say that “‘some treatments and symptoms allow for an NHL career, and some for other diseases don’t”. And because this is a taboo topic, we don’t know how many other players are dealing with similar situations without the tragic result. Contrary to what some might think, I’m not a moron, I realize treatment of depression and allergies are two different things. The parallel I was drawing is that several people have chronic conditions which can be severe if untreated (and I would consider anaphylactic shock at exposure to allergens to be severe), but if they can be controlled, there should be no reason why one can’t enjoy success. Rypien was just awarded an NHL contract, you think if he had a little checkmark on his file somewhere next to depression he would’ve been passed over? Call me naive if you want, but I think if a GM thinks a player can help his team on the ice, he’s going to give him a shot. And again maybe I’m misinterpreting your posts, but they come off as saying that if you’re depressed your useless as a hockey player and I just don’t buy that. ~Ok I’m done, you won’t have to worry about hearing from me in a while. Cheers.

          • Uh… I think you missed the point when I said I agree with most of your post. When you said you compare depression to every other disease, I replied like anyone would, and you later backtracked and explained your reasoning better.

            “This is why I don’t usually bother posting” – Is that because you feel boards like this are best when everyone agrees? I enjoy an interesting discussion or debate. Sorry it turns you off to defend what you say.

            My original point still makes sense: as a player you probably don’t publicize your depression because it can have a negative effect on your value. Is this so hard to imagine?

            Sure Rypien had a long enough career to prove his worth and was good enough for the Canucks to re-sign for 1 year in 2009 and for the Jets to pick up. I’ll stand by my other claim that NHL GMs prefer healthy players.

            It was enjoyable bantering with someone who seems to know what they’re talking about. Please don’t get offended when you jump in to disagree with someone if they actually disagree back.


          • smiliegirl15

            I said I wasn’t going to do this, but whatever. OK. The reason I don’t like debating on a message board is, posts on a board can be misinterpreted in a way face-to-face conversations wouldn’t ordinarily be; words on a page lack inflection and tone and it is easy to jump to conclusions merely based on a poster’s choice of wording. Not only that, but there is a matter of hours between posts which draws things out a lot longer than they should go on. I don’t mind that you disagree with me, I guess I’m just too thin-skinned to be able to ignore phrases like “You should know better.” and “..and you later backtracked…”. I could have explained better in my first post I guess, but as a reader of this site, I tend to just skip over the page-long responses and actually read the ones shorter than a paragraph or two. Maybe my goal to be concise was a mistake. We all know I tend to be making a lot of those lately 😉

          • Don’t stop chiming in on here, no matter how contentious things can get – the comments section on a site with such good contributors needs people who can connect sentences and shed light on a different point of view.

  • Chris.

    On a personal note: I had a breif glimpse at depression a year ago. (For about a month… and one month only)

    I couldn’t sleep. Food had no flavor (seriously) I hardly ate: but I drank… lots… without joy. I avoided people. I chose to work long, long hours and tell my wife and kids that “things are crazy at work right now”. At that instant in time I really didn’t believe anyone could love someone like me. I was tired of the charade. It seemed like my evey word or action was being judged and deemed inadequate. I was conscious at all times of my posture, my breathing, the water in my mouth… I couldn’t stop revisting my past mistakes. I kept fantasizing about sneaking away to a quiet cabin somewhere in the woods just to be left all alone.

    Then as quickly as the storm came… it lifted. I’m amazed anyone can live like that long term. At the time I didn’t even realize just how deep that hole was. If I ever find myself there again I will seek immediate help. I wrote myself a letter to that end: a message from the real me to that other guy.

  • Deep Oil

    @David & @Gregor

    I think what Tyler is trying to say is that regardless of the pre-existing condition, you can’t rule out that his role as a fighter didn’t make things worse.

    As an aside, there is a major issue in pro sports when it comes to not just concussions, but mental health issues. These guys, despite all the resources, can’t get the help they need because they percieve that it is a weakness. And if no one knows the weakness it can’t be exploited.

    The question is, how did it get to that point?

    The quote Gregor provides about how 17 & 18 year old kids didn’t know how to help him cope with it is missing something very important…

    Namely, what about the adults in charge? His coaches or GM? His parents? Teachers & guidance counsellors?

    Is enough being done to help athletes like this out when they are teenagers?

    • positivebrontefan

      I don’t think that is a conversation that initially happens on the radio. If he has close friends they need to let him (if this is his issue, speculation much?) know that they are there to listen and help when needed.


      Thanks for your insight into this. I have a friend that suffers from depression and he cant hold down a job…or should I say, anytime he gets a good job he quits after he gets settled in and starts to make a difference at the company he’s at. The man is smart, funny, and extremely organized and as soon as things start to go really good for him he runs away from it. I never understood why he would do this but your post has helped me understand what is maybe driving this.

  • Scott

    1 in 5 people have some form of mental illness.Fact of life. Someone you know is dealing with mental illness as you read. Working at the RAH I can tell you that dealing with mental illness is much harder than a physical illness. There are so many unknowns with a person who has mental illness. The key is patience and understanding. When I deal with a person who has BPD I know that it is just a tag we hang on that person. Really it only gives us a place a place to start the healing process. We can help them with thier symptoms but it takes time and support for that person to heal. Mental Illness is so misunderstood that there is a definite fear amongst health profesionals. At times we just don’t know what to do for that person. We feel helpless. Its not like when someone comes in with high blood pressure or kidney faliure. Those we can treat for the most part with tried and true clinical pathways. I feel for Rypien. And for all the others out there who suffer in silence. My heart reaches out to each and every one of them.

    • Ribs

      Well said Michael. Someone ealier asked why parents, coaches etc. did not intervene when the trauma happened. Well, many physicians don’t know know how to manage this and other mental illnesses. Prescribe medications with no to little (sytem failure or refusal by patient) non medication treatments/support.

      Throw in the jock culture, doesn’t make things any better for these individuals.

      I will say this, these athletes, with their financial situations, are at a great advantage when it comes to accessing advanced healthcare, including mental illness treatment.

  • Scott

    Its funny how those who support fighting always come out the quickest to defend fighting in these situations. A fighter dies and in anticipation of the backlash these types of articles come out.

    Your argument that just because Rypien was depressed before entering the NHL should mean that his role on the team had no impact on his life. Whether he was depressed or not heading into the NHL, his role as a fighter on the team had to take an additional mental toll on his health, just as it did for Probert et al.

    You talk about fans not wanting to focus on the off-ice lives of the players, well if your not going to write about Rypien right now, don’t use his death as a way to defend and deflect attention away from fighting in hockey.

    • Jason Gregor

      You seemed to miss the point that guys can be depressed without fighting. Example. Joey Votto.

      Also my stance on fighting isn’t whether I like it or not. I’d watch with or without it, and have an article coming up pointing out why it concerns me.

      Also..please show me where I defended fighting anywhere in the article.

  • Banger

    You have the dirty rats (Avery) in the league. I cant see dealing with it would be easier if you are hearing the trash talk in every scrum. Especially when your a tough guy. Maybe thats why he chose not to make it public.

  • ubermiguel

    @ Gregor; thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking about Rick Rypien: “If people are looking for a cause to support from this case, it shouldn’t be their feelings about fighting; it should be to debunk the stigma attached to mental illness.”

  • smiliegirl15

    I think it’s dangerous to draw conclusions when it comes to things like this (fighting in hockey and mental issues). It’s not to say having concussion(s) from fighting couldn’t have exacerbated his condition but then again, it may not have changed the affect depression had on him at all.

    People deal with tragedy in their lives in many different ways and a lot of people don’t have the coping skills to deal with it. I think it would have been especially hard on a 20 year guy who probably had a lot of guilt resulting from something he had absolutely no control over.

    I think Rypien’s tough guy persona in his hockey life might have made it harder for him to say ‘this is my weakness’. No one will ever know. We can only hope this tragedy will save the life of someone else who will be brave enough to step forward to say they need help.

  • Dr. Nick

    I have to say, I hate it when people start talking about Depression. Part of it is just the word (most people think depressed=sad, which isn’t the case) and part of it is the conception that it’s some sort of uniform thing and it’s just a matter of getting the drug cocktail right.

    A big part of the problem with depression is that it becomes normal for you, so you don’t feel as though there’s anything wrong. That said, you have less energy and do less things (and interact with less people since it takes a surprising amount of energy to function socially when you’re depressed) and so it becomes a self-isolating disease. All of the things that can potentially help it become things that you just don’t have the time or energy for.

    Yea, people overcome. Sometimes the right meds will do the trick. Sometimes a combination of the right meds, some CBT and general talk counselling will do the trick. Sometimes you’ll be doing great and then you get one piece of bad news and you tank. The higher the up, the lower you tend to tank. And from the bits I’ve heard, Rypien’s personal life was complicated that way.

    Were his issues due to fighting? Everything I know about his situation says no. Could it have made things worse? Maybe. Is it relevant? No. Should it be the focus after his death? No.

    We set up professional athletes as though they’re superhero role models. Many writers on the blogs write about players as though they’re robots and psychology is BS in sports. That’s just not the case. Wouldn’t it be healthier for kids to know that the people they look up to have pains and struggles? Probably. But that’s intensely personal stuff, and you really can’t blame people for not coming out with it.

    There’s definitely a stigma attached to mental illness. It’s not hard to imagine that there are a lot of people out there that would love to write about the subject but won’t because they know it will limit their job opportunities. But Rypien not coming out with it to the public? Why wouldn’t you keep your battle a secret? This isn’t cancer. This is part of who you are. Should everyone need to fully disclose everything that makes them up?

    Mental health battles can be as easy as a 1 on 1 fight or as difficult as a person fighting an army of a million. Therapies and medications can tip the balance, but in many cases won’t tip it far enough to end the fight. At that point is stops being a battle (seriously, whoever started using the word fight/war with regards to medical afflictions should be shot. Can you say oversimplification?) and is just a part of who you are.

    You’re not fighting. You’re trying to live.

  • Ribs

    Know what’s interesting…Looking through Rypiens injury history, there is no mention at all of concussions. There are several “Upper Body Injuries”, but all appear to have been cleared within a few days (Unlike concussions, which take longer to come back from).

    Things do go undiagnosed and that may be so especially with concussions, but the fact that their is no mention whatsoever of there ever being a concussion problem is interesting.

  • Mitch


    Nice article Jason, I’m on board with you. Rypien’s fighting should have nothing to do with depression. First and foremost he was a human, many people battle depression, Rick just happended to be a hockey player. The worst part is people are silent because this is probably the easiest way to deal with it. The sad part is Rick is not with us on this us anymore.

  • Dr. Nick

    I would like to congratulate Jason Gregor on a very insightful article and for shining a light in an area full of shadows. My thoughts go out to Rick Rypien’s friends and family as they travel this most difficult of roads.

    I think what happened to Rick is a tragedy but what is worse is that people will forget about it. Depression is an illness that is easy to sweep under the rug, but there are others out there right now that are going through what Rick was going through. Depression can affect anyone, whether they are athletes or not. If anyone reading this knows someone that may be suffering from depression, and believe me they are suffering, whether they want to admit or not, I hope you realize you can help them. Help doesn’t have to come in the form of pills and doctors. Helping someone dealing with depression can be anything that will make their day a little brighter, like a compliment or a phone call. A lot of people dealing with depression are going to be afraid to approach you for help, so be brave enough to take that first step. If that person is not ready to face the challenge of depression, don’t push them, be a friend and most importantly be there to listen when they are ready to talk.

  • smiliegirl15

    Unfortunately you can’t force help on people who don’t want to be helped, even if they need it. All you can do is stand by them and be there for them until the time comes when they do ask for help. Hopefully it’s not too late.

  • smiliegirl15

    @smilegirl15 @DSF

    Rypien had a bunch of friends and colleagues who knew there was a problem. He likely had a private psychiatrist or psychologist, given his salary.

    The idea that people need to accept help or get help is an idea that makes all sorts of mainstream sense (by which I mean sense to people who are not mentally ill). It’s the same idea that makes it socially acceptable to look down on addicts and alcoholics on the streets because obviously, if they wanted to change, they would (Don’t take this as a personal attack — I’m not talking about you specifically. Just the general concept).

    I get that it makes sense when you’re talking about choices. People need to want help building that deck. Mental illness is not a choice, and neither is most addiction. It’s not curable. It’s not like Diabetes or allergies which have simple algorithmic fixes and precautions. It is a day-to-day struggle in many and since it can be strongly associated with external stimuli can become an insurmountable challenge in minutes. From what I know on the subject, people don’t *slowly* decide to pull the trigger. It’s an instinct. A quick action.

    Fact is, we don’t know what was going on in his personal life. Things could have been going great until he got a phone call and the world dropped out underneath his feet. All of the help in the world won’t help with that short of him being on suicide watch 24/7. Depression and deliberate rational thought don’t go together very well. Sure, there are help lines and he undoubtedly had people around, but it’s entirely possible and even likely that those options never even occurred to him. This is not him not wanting help or not accepting help. This is his brain chemistry compelling him to do something and him not wanting to or not being able to compensate and overcome that.

    Chris Malarchuk *understood* Rypien’s depression? Give me a break. Nobody understands severe depression (there is a big difference between being sad, having a minor depressive episode and having severe depression) except for those who struggle with it. Everyone’s triggers will be different and will have variable effects. Something that has a strong emotional attachment to drops on the floor and breaks? Can be complete and utter devastation if you’re feeling ok but ambivalence and resignation if you’re in a deep trough. You never really know.

    So when you talk about help, people needing help, people not wanting help, or people not being willing to accept help, you’re treating this as a choice. As though if only they’d gotten (accepted or sought out) more help, all of this would be fixed. Many end up in the hospital without ever realizing that anything was abnormal. Many end up on the street smoking crack without realizing that they’re self-medicating an affliction they don’t know that they have. If, for you, your mental illness can be treated due to a conscious choice, you’re high-functioning and lucky. And still, with a newly perfect life and CBT and talk therapy, a phone call or a bad day can end your life.

    Like I said, it bugs me when people write about depression because it makes it sound like the person is just sad and need to cheer up or be cheered up. That if they only found the resources that they need, everything would be peachy. Undoubtedly sometimes that’s true. But sometimes nothing is enough. And that’s why mental illness is horrifying. Sometimes you can’t avoid triggers and sometimes those triggers hit you hard enough and fast enough that all the support in the world won’t be enough.