You don’t know me, but I know you. More specifically, I know of you. I’ve seen all of your fights online. I was playing in Providence, the Boston Bruins farm team, when you TKO’d Shawn Thornton a couple years back. I was on the first year of my NHL contract with the Bruins, just waiting for my chance. Word was that Thornton would be out for a couple of weeks. I was shitting my pants thinking that I might get called up. The Bruins were playing against Buffalo the next week, where you would be waiting. I sat there and I wondered if this was the time. Shouldn’t I feel excited about this? And then I went back and re-watched all of your fights. It didn’t help. It got worse. But I signed up for this, and I forced myself to accept it. Once I dispersed all that fear, I prepared myself and I was ready. I would do the job. Or I would die trying.
"The NHL Is Losing Part of Its Uniqueness without Fighting"
OK, it's gone, or mostly gone. Handfuls of teams have single-digit fights, including the Maple Leafs, who have a league-low one fighting major this season. The average amount of fights per game has been cut in half over the last 15 seasons. How do we feel about this? Do we miss the fighting? Is there an element of the game that seems suddenly, strikingly absent? Do ticket prices justify watching a physical sport where hardly anyone is physical anymore? Or rather: Do ticket prices justify watching a physical sport where hardly anyone is physical anymore, especially when no one scores goals, either? Can the NHL put fighting back in the game? Some fighting? Any fighting?
A few years ago, I programmed a literary event that had Toronto Star sports writer Cathal Kelly as one of its presenters. Kelly told a story of one summer working abroad as a young man, eventually settling in western Europe. He remembered attending an early Radiohead show in a field—a festival of some kind—and having his view blocked by an enormous umbrella, even though the evening was clear. The umbrella holder was hectored by the crowd until, finally, it collapsed. After the umbrella came down, one of Cathal's friends sighed and said, "And now, we miss the umbrella." This is a little how I feel about fighting.
READ MORE: The NHL Must Reinvent Itself to Address the Rapid Decline in Scoring
I don't miss fighting. Rather, I miss the idea of fighting. I miss the idea that, at any point, the pressure and tension and drama of a game can explode in a hail of fists; ten men losing their shit and addressing their emotions the way we've been taught not to. The cultural significance of fighting is complicated. To me, it was always a little like watching pornography. To paraphrase Susan Sontag: "For the first ten minutes, all you want to do is fuck. For the next ten, it's the last thing you want to do." I wonder if there's a way of getting those first ten minutes back while stopping the next ten from happening.
Does the game seem duller without the threat of pugilism? For devotees of the sport, it probably does not—we watch the play in all of its glorious detail, and we'll keep watching no matter what it becomes—but for those who give it a passing glance (the very demographic that, in the USA at least, will, or won't, put hockey over the top, or at least beyond the mighty five or six dominant mainstream sports), you wonder how many eyeballs have cruised across the game without being drawn to the sight of two sanguine men slugging away at each other, eyes pinched during contact and hair greased in sweat hanging down their necks. Has a certain colour—bloodred, I suppose—become drained from the sport to the point that it shines less hard? Is it now more monochromatic? Do people miss the umbrella?
Tie Domi, Bob Propert, Marty McSorley, Donald Brashear, Tony Twist, Ogie Ogilthorpe, the Hansons, Eddie Shore, Gilles Bilodeau, Felix Batterinski, and dirty Steve Durbano, who died destitute in Yellowknife—for all of their ice crimes (in the case of Batterinski, it was a fictional life), they were enormous cultural figures in the wild and complex narrative of the game. Because of the current absence of goons or policemen—choose your term—there's a vacuum in the game. And with most safe-minded and micro-managed players entrapped in an already stultifyingly goal-challenged game, characters who possessed a true sense of individuality—impetuous and controversial—have been mortgaged in favour of something the NHL has yet to invent.
There are all kinds of issues regarding the decline of fighting, and the possible, eventual, elimination of it. The ongoing lawsuit brought by retired players—alleging that the NHL knowingly put players at risk despite decades of data connecting blows to the head with long-term neurological damage—has likely informed the league's decision to move swiftly (hastily) to rid the league of fisticuffs. But, whatever the NHL's motivations, it underestimated the effect of changing a product in which fighting, or rather, the idea of fighting, was central to its play. Fighting was and is mostly ugly and dangerous, but it also gave the game a kind of character found no where else in professional sport.
I always insisted that fighting wouldn't be missed if it disappeared, and I still think that (I think). But as the game becomes puck chess, I'm left wondering. Hockey has to figure out how it can still remain unique and wild in fighting's absence. These days, we're paying hundreds of dollars to watch players not only not score, but not fight, either.
By DAN GELSTON (AP Sports Writer)December 9, 2014 2:28 PMAP - Sports
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Dave Schultz would drop his gloves in a flash, his bare fists pummeling away at unprotected faces in fits of fury so ferocious he became known as ''The Hammer.''
Schultz was the intimidating backbone of Philadelphia's ''Broad Street Bullies'' teams of the 1970s that won a pair of Stanley Cup championships. The Flyers' rugged style of play became their calling card, and by the 1980s every team had a tough guy or two whose primary role was to protect his teammates by brute force.
Fast forward 40 years since the Flyers' last championship and players like Schultz are having a harder time sticking in the NHL. The role of the enforcer is seemingly going down without a fight as speed and skill on every line have become the norm.
In a league that is also facing head injury concerns - and lawsuits - is it finally time to say goodbye to the goon?
''They just wanted to take fighting out of the game,'' Schultz said. ''It's not the same game.''
But not necessarily a worse one.
The true signal the culture in the NHL has changed comes from Schultz's old stomping grounds. For the first time since the organization was in its infancy, the Flyers opened the season without a true enforcer on their roster. Heck, their biggest threat might be goalie Ray Emery, who headlined a fight last season against Washington's unwilling goalie, Braden Holtby.
''We've got some toughness on our team,'' Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. ''We've got some guys that can handle themselves. But I think when you look, there weren't a lot of fights in the preseason. There are never any fights in the playoffs. In between, there's been less and less.''
The numbers back up the former NHL goalie.
There were 143 fights through the first 408 games of the season, which projects to 431 fights overall, according to hockeyfights.com. That's a dramatic dip from 734 fights in 2008-09 and 714 fights in 2009-10. The number of fights fell into the 500s in 2011-12 and the 400s last season (there were 347 fights in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season).
The NHL has toughened instigation penalties in place since the 1930s. It added a two-minute minor for the player who started the fight in the 1990s, looking to both cut down on brawling and perhaps attract more casual fans. Of late, the NHL is dishing out longer suspensions for cheap shots and illegal hits, erasing some of the players' unwritten code of justice.
''That tells you, let's just play hockey,'' Schultz said. ''And when there's a problem, the league will take care of it.''
That role used to be left to the enforcers, the de facto bodyguards for the stars. Back on the put-up-your-dukes heyday, even Wayne Gretzky had his own personal great one watching his back: Marty McSorley was the Hall of Famer's first line of thuggish defense, serving and protecting Gretzky in stints with Edmonton and Los Angeles.
''I remember when guys like Gretzky said, we want guys to be able to protect us,'' Schultz said. ''(Sidney) Crosby doesn't want to be protected. By the league, yes. But not by one of his teammates.''
Stu Grimson, the color analyst on Nashville Predators' TV broadcasts, was known as ''The Grim Reaper'' with 2,113 career penalty minutes in his NHL career. He said fighting still has a role in the game, especially at home games where one entertaining scrum can shift momentum and liven up the fans.
''I think the fight itself, there is a purpose for it, and you can put your finger on that purpose,'' he said. ''I think it makes sense to keep that in the game, and I think it's valuable to the game for that reason.''
Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo said fights aren't going to completely vanish, either.
''I don't think the mindless, senseless, go out and fight, rah-rah, for no reason, I don't think that has a place in the game anymore,'' Carcillo said. ''If guys take runs at other players, I think those players that take the run at them, whether they fight or not, they have to know in the back of their mind that there's still fighting in this game and they're going to have to answer the bell or respond to it if they're going to take dirty runs or cheap shots.''
But in the back of everyone minds is the risk of concussions and other long-term health risks that come with trading punches on the ice. The idea that brawling was as much fun as a nasty wreck in NASCAR or bench-clearing brawl in baseball came to a jarring halt in 2011 when three former enforcers were found dead.
Derek Boogaard, once named in a Sports Illustrated players poll as the NHL's toughest fighter, died from an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone. Wade Belak hanged himself and Rick Rypien was discovered at his home after suffering from depression for a decade.
The 65-year-old Schultz said he suffered nothing more than a couple of minor concussions and feels fine.
''We didn't hit anyone near as hard as they do today,'' Schultz said.
There are just now far fewer of those hits.
''It's still an exciting sport,'' Schultz said. ''It's just evolving. It's the way it is.''
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report
USA Hockey Alienating Hockey Down South with Increased Fighting Rules
By: Joey Battaino
By now we have all heard about the rule changes that USA Hockey implemented during their Annual Congress last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The council recommended and passed stricter fighting rules for Tier I and Tier II players, including a 10-minute misconduct to accompany a five minute major for any fight during the course of a game.
Of course, we must not forget about the children, who according to USA Hockey's VP for the Junior Council John Vanbiesbrouck, would be helpless to gain any information about the connections to fighting and head trauma, if it were not for USA Hockey imposing rules on them.
"Our efforts in player saftey include a concerted focus on eliminating dangerous behavior in junior hockey,"
STOP! We are ALREADY on a very slippery slope on what USA Hockey considers "dangerous" as it is. By this logic, Open-ice body checks are dangerous. Are we on the road to eliminating checking in the junior ranks?
Many people will look at that last paragraph and see an overreaction. I have a feeling that owners of teams down south may be right on track with my thinking.
Lets take a look at the NAHL's South Division in the 2013-14 season, which had six out of their seven members in the top 10 in attendance. Lone Star (North Richland Hills, TX) was 11th.
According to hockeyfights.com, the South Division partook in 245 of the 348 fights in the league last season. In fact, the top four teams in fighting Corpus Christi, Rio Grande Valley, Amarillo, and Wichita Falls all compete in the South Division. This is hardly a coincidence, folks.
Rough house hockey south of the Mason-Dixon dates back to 1996 and the birth of the Western Professional Hockey League. In a time where folks still didn't know the North Stars moved to Dallas, a new professional hockey league took shape in nontraditional hockey markets like Rio Rancho, NM, Austin, Amarillo, and Waco. Attendance numbers soared and expansion soon followed for this rough and tumble league. The birth of the WPHL has been what has arguably kept the Stars in Dallas. Hear me out, here. Was the popularity of the Stars, just in Big D, enough to keep them in Dallas? No. They needed neighboring regions to buy in. The Stars needed the WPHL and in turn the WPHL needed the Stars. And just like the NAHL needs the South Division, the South Division needs fighting. Not a rodeo circus every night, but fans down here need to know that part of their entertainment value in a ticket is the chance that a fight will break out. That was what their hockey values were built on. Think of the first time you saw the game of hockey. Growing up in Michigan in the early 90's, I saw both sides of the game. Steve Yzerman would gracefully carry himself around the ice creating plays for his line mates, while big, bruising Bob Probert would barrel his way through defenders and not think twice about it. For many in the south, the first time they saw the game they were witnessing Jacques Mailhot fighting security guards in full hockey gear on the concrete in Rio Rancho. They thought that is what hockey was. People grew used to this style of hockey that contined into the last 2000's when the pro hockey model became much too expensive for smaller markets. Teams in the south switched to juniors to save a few bucks but not to sell their stripes. Amarillo, Topeka, Odessa, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, and Rio Grande Valley all continued to play the styles that had made them successful in the past.
My biggest fear in all of this is that I am not entirely convinced that the Tier II product can survive without fighting. Tier II provides an opportunity for players who might not have the speed or skill to compete at the Tier I level, a chance to get a Division I scholarship. What is never highlighted by the league, for obvious reasons, is it's physical, sometimes over-the-edge type play. I'll cite one major example. Weekly, the league requests members send in what they think are the top plays of the week. Not once this season, was a fight, or even a hit, highlighted. Hits and Fights can change the outlook of a hockey game and can be just as important as a goal or save. It's a game built on momentum.
At the end of the day, I don't think we are giving enough credit to the kids who are coming up to play juniors. With so much talk about head trauma awareness, isn't there enough information available to players that they can make their OWN educated decision on whether it is safe for them to fight or not? When I was younger, it was simple. If you are not a fighter, you put on a cage. A visor was as good as a welcome mat. If you were tough you didn't hide behind the cage because at that time, the rules didn't protect players who wore cages. Everything and everyone was fair game, as it should be.
Proponents to these rule changes will say that this is one step closer to eliminating fighting in junior hockey all together. With the information provided above, it would seem that we are one step closer to eliminating hockey in the South all together.
This is an opinion piece and in no way reflects the views of the Odessa Jackalopes, the NAHL, or any of it's members.
The NHL season is upon us. After a tumultuous 12-13 season that saw no pre-season and a shortened season the league is back with its full 82 game regular season schedule for 13-14. Full of hope and excitement as well as full of some new rules that are based in total hypocrisy and political correctness.
Players whom have played less than 26 games must wear a visor. As of last season, 73% of NHL players were already wearing them. It is mandatory in Juniors and in the AHL. I like the idea of personal choice to professional players who choose to not wear one, but the rule happened because of Marc Staal’s unfortunate accident. It has happened before and it will happen again to players who wear visors as injuries are part of the game. Overall I don’t have issue with the rule except for it creates a serious problem to the grandfather players combined with yet another rule.
This would be the helmets during fighting rule. This rule trips over itself in hypocrisy and stupidity. So if you take off your helmet to engage in a fight you get an extra minor. It’s about safety. How is it “safe” for a grandfathered player who chooses not to wear a visor to engage in a fight with a player who has to wear one? One of them is forced to fight with their face exposed and the other with it protected with the shield. Forget the hand injuries that come with punching a shield, but this scenario that has already played out creates an uneven playing field. Players do hurt themselves sometimes hitting their head on the ice during a fight. It is a reality to the sport. The thing is when two men are engaged in a bare-knuckled on ice skates sometimes people will get hurt. A player is more likely to injury their hand or in the case of players who does not wear a shield and is fighting someone who does he is at a greater risk due to this rule.
There was a popular NHL promotional commercial that I saw up until this summer that showed a fight in where Joe Thornton and Jamie Been took off their helmets to engage into a fight. So the new rule is for safety, yet it is used to promote the game at the same time? Profit over safety is the NHL’s way I guess. Those Center Ice packages don’t sell themselves.
The league is a walking contradiction when it comes to fighting. They create rules like this to limit/curb fighting yet make money off of the new EA NHL14 game that has a primary selling point of a new fighting engine. Make up your mind.
Anyone who thinks these changes are for safety are being very naive. This is about looking at what happened in the NFL with lawsuits and seeing some of the tragic deaths of young hockey players, most of them pugilists. This has nothing to do with safety, but money.
Besides, hockey is a very physically demanding sport. While rules are needed as well as advances in equipment the game has a physicality to it that will result in players getting hurt. Adding politically correct rules that cause more harm then good will stop this. You can’t Nerf proof the NHL. The league is slowly but surely alienating its fans. Hopefully after some poor NHL vet that does not wear a visor gets his clocked cleaned by someone who does wear one and tucks his chin while firing a big punch the league can see how absurd forcing guys to keep their helmets on is. Sadly that won’t change a thing but I assure you it will be on highlights and promotional videos to sell the game. Those Center Ice packages don’t sell themselves.
Canucks new winger a waiver-wire pickup, and plays with one speed — full throttle
BY BEN KUZMA, THE PROVINCE MARCH 3, 2013
Tom Sestito, here with the Columbus Blue Jackets, redirects a shot past goalie Roberto Luongo for his first NHL career goal during a game in December 2010 at Rogers Arena. The two are now teammates, as Sestito was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers off of waivers.
Tom Sestito has been called a lot of things. Some of them are flattering. Some aren't.
As a waiver-wire claim after the Vancouver Canucks lost Aaron Volpatti to the Washington Capitals in the same process Thursday, the hulking winger has a hard head and soft hands — he scored his first two NHL goals against Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider — but his long-term effectiveness as a fourth-line checker, grinder and fighter will be measured in the short term. The 6-foot-5, 228 pound forward knows he can't be a gentle giant in the Canucks' ongoing fourth-line experiments with Steve Pinizzotto honing his game with the Chicago Wolves.
Sestito made the right first impression Saturday.
After levelling Colin Fraser with a heavy shoulder check in the neutral zone that dropped the Los Angeles Kings centre, he had to answer a challenge from Jordan Nolan. Sestito got in the first four punches — popping the lid off the Kings winger — and also absorbed four punches. The fight not only got Sestito going, it energized his new teammates in a 5-2 victory at Rogers Arena. Sestito also nearly scored early in the third period and forced Jonathan Quick to make a shoulder save.
"You don't want to wait around to get into the game," said Sestito, who finished with three hits in 7:03 on a line with Jordan Schroeder and Dale Weise. "It was good to get that first fight out of the way and the first game out of the way and go from there. After the hit, I just looked around to see if anybody was coming and I was expecting somebody. I wasn't looking for a fight, but that's my game.
"It was great. An unbelievable atmosphere and the fans were great."
So was Sestito.
"He was physical when he had the opportunity and had a good scrap," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "He seemed to be comfortable with the puck and I think we've got some elements to work with there."
That doesn't surprise Scott Arniel. He enjoyed coaching Sestito in Columbus and hated coaching against him in the AHL and that says something. In this abnormal NHL season, waiver-wire claims have become the norm as teams wrestle with compacted schedules and expanded injury lists. Fourth lines are a factor, not an afterthought, because Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago proved as the last three Stanley Cup champions how effective the right fourth line can be. In that respect, Sestito took a step in the right direction.
"That's the one thing with Tommy — if anything you've got to calm him down and don't let him get too rattled," said Arniel, who now guides the Wolves. "He's one guy you don't have to wire up. He's not afraid and if he recognizes that fine line between taking a bad penalty or going after somebody, he can be a real solid player."
The book on Sesito includes 26 fights at the NHL level — including one against Zack Kassian last season just 11 days before the winger was traded from Buffalo to Vancouver — and an OHL resume with Plymouth that included a 42 goals and 135 penalty minutes in 2006-07 with linemate James Neal and a Memorial Cup semi-final appearance at the Pacific Coliseum. That came a year after he was selected by the Blue Jackets in the third round of the draft. There was also the growth spurt from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-3 the year before junior and the constant comparison to his older brother, Tim, who plays in the New Jersey system.
However, above all, there's the chance to expand a 35-game NHL career with Columbus, Philadelphia and Vancouver that includes four goals — two this season — to go with seven assists and 164 penalty minutes. He knows that. Just ask him about the waiver-wire claim.
"I was ecstatic," sid the 25-year-old Rome, N.Y native. "I was surprised because I had heard rumours about Edmonton and I've been here a couple of times and it's a great city."
Sestito can't let a recent charley horse injury slow his approach, even though he hasn't played in a couple of weeks. After all, Calgary has recalled Brian McGratton and Sestito may have to take on the Flames enforcer Sunday in the Saddledome.
"You've just got to get out there and it doesn't matter who I play, I play the same way with hitting bodies and fighting if I have to," added Sestito. "And I love playing in the away rinks because the fans get on you and under your skin and that's good to hear. I've got one speed and I go full all the time."
Had the Canucks known Ryan Kesler's right foot was broken before they placed Volpatti on waivers — an awkward two-hour window — then Sestito probably wouldn't even be here. The Canucks were hoping Volpatti would clear waivers and develop his limited game with more ice time in the AHL. And knowing Pinizzotto will eventually play his first NHL game because Volpatti was placed on waivers to activate Pinizzotto from injury reserve, there were enough fourth-liners in the fold.
"We liked what he (Volpatti) did here, but you need to be able to kill penalties and he didn't develop last year because he was hurt for the entire season," said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. "And we still want to have a player like that, so we selected Tom."
Sens should re-sign tough duo
By Don Brennan ,Ottawa Sun
First posted: Thursday, June 07, 2012 05:38 PM EDT | Updated: Thursday, June 07, 2012 07:11 PM EDT
Matt Carkner catches his breath at practice early in the 2011-12 season. (Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun)
Two key ingredients in the Senators’ recipe for modest success this season were toughness and chemistry.
That’s why there should be no hesitation in re-signing Matt Carkner.
I understand GM Bryan Murray when he says he “can’t bring them all back” when referring to seven pending unrestricted free agents.
He needs to make room for Jakob Silfverberg, maybe Mika Zibanejad, perhaps Mark Stone, and possibly one, if not both, of Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki.
He wants to have openings for a veteran, defensive defenceman to replace Filip Kuba and either another free-agent signing or a training camp surprise.
But there also has to be a spot for a 6-foot-4, 230-pound blueliner who happens to be one of the top heavyweights in the league.
A man among so many boys in the dressing room.
A guy coach Paul MacLean scratched from the lineup during the regular season but leaned on in the playoffs, and someone he would have turned to again in Game 7 against the Rangers if Carkner’s knee wasn’t banged up.
A Winchester product who has a lot of fans here and was making only $700,000 this season. His cap hit won’t be an issue.
Carkner has his shortcomings, but he also has a lot of respect, both around the league and on this team. He has an off-ice demeanour that makes him popular with Senators who play a little bigger and braver knowing he has their back.
Carkner re-emphasized he’ll stop at no length to stand up for them by confronting Brian Boyle in Game 2, and the Senators rallied around the beating he administered.
Going forward, the only possible issue could be Carkner’s knee. But even if it will never again be 100%, he’s worth having as a sixth or seventh defencemen on a team that shouldn’t have to rely every night on two rookie rearguards.
Only four other defencemen are expected to return in September — Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar. That number could be trimmed to three if Murray can somehow unload Gonchar’s $5.5 million salary.
Re-signing Carkner should be a no-brainer, and at the end of the day I expect Murray will see it as such.
Of the six others who are eligible to test the market, Kuba, defenceman Matt Gilroy and backup goalie Alex Auld are gone. If winger Rob Klinkhammer is re-inked, he’ll likely be playing in Binghamton.
Jesse Winchester is certainly worth retaining if he’s over his concussion problems.
That leaves Zenon Konopka.
Like Carkner, Konopka provided plenty of grit and leadership. (Remember when Senators teams would be searching high and low for those qualities)?
Like Carkner, he watched a number of regular-season games from the press box. Like Carkner, he was tapped on the shoulder by MacLean in the playoffs — and his effort in response should have earned him another contract here.
Konopka could barely walk, his back was so bad, but he pleaded to keep playing. He had the best faceoff winning percentage of any centre on the 16 first-round playoff teams, and he helped set up huge goals in Game 2 and Game 5 victories, both at Madison Square Garden.
Like Carkner, he made $700,000 and wants to come back. Konopka, like Carkner, is 31. There are plenty of miles left in his tank. Also, his personality is strong in the dressing room, where it’s known he’ll do anything it takes to win.
There’s a theory the Senators were able to come from behind to win so many games in the third period because they weren’t intimidated — opponents couldn’t push them around when protecting a lead. The presence of Carkner and Konopka was a big part of that.
Perhaps Konopka isn’t as likely to be re-signed as Carkner because the Senators would like to put Zack Smith in his fourth-line role and sign Chris Kelly to centre the third. But then, Kelly can also play wing.
It’s a great thing to have so much promising youth, but it’s also necessary to possess a blend of veterans with character. Should Murray allow Carkner and/or Konopka to slip away, he’ll bring in more toughness — probably, younger players to fill the role.
But Murray would be messing with chemistry by following that path. and the Senators already have a lot of youth. To show the way and protect them, they’re best hanging on to and rewarding two good men who are already here and eager to reach for a pen.
COLEMAN, Alberta (AP) - Winnipeg Jets center Rick Rypien was found dead in his home Monday, nine months after he took a leave of absence to deal with an undisclosed personal matter.
An official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called Rypien's death sudden, but not suspicious. Rypien, a cousin of Super Bowl MVP quarterback Mark Rypien, was 27.
"We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick's friends,'' the Jets said in a release. "We also appreciate all of the support that has come pouring in from Rick's fans. Rick was a talented player with an extremely bright future. His hunger for the game made him a valued team member both on and off the ice. This loss has impacted us as more than just a hockey team.''
Rypien is the second active NHL player found dead this offseason. Former New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died in May due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Rypien signed a $700,000, one-year deal with Winnipeg last month after spending parts of six seasons with Vancouver. He had nine goals, seven assists and 226 penalty minutes in 119 career NHL games, often dropping the gloves against much larger opponents.
The Canucks announced on Nov. 25 that they had granted Rypien an indefinite leave of absence. It was the second time in three years the forward had left the team to deal with an undisclosed personal matter. Rypien also received a six-game suspension from the NHL last season after grabbing a fan on his way to the dressing room in Minnesota.
Rypien also took an extended personal leave after a rash of injuries two years ago, missing 70 games during the 2008-09 season.