Fans create memorial to NHLer Rick Rypien

Fans of former Canucks player Rick Rypien flocked to a memorial set up Wednesday outside Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

Fans of former Canucks player Rick Rypien flocked to a memorial set up Wednesday outside Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

Rypien, 27, was found dead at his home in Crowsnest Pass, Alta., on Monday.

The memorial was organized spontaneously through social media.

Messages and cards were posted and flowers were left honouring Rypien near the statue of late former Canucks coach Roger Neilson.

"I was just always a big fan of his," said one fan. "He was just always a very exciting player to watch. He was very humble. He seemed just like an everyday kind of person."

A young woman said he had been her favourite player for the last few years.

"He wasn't a huge guy but he would always stick up for his teammates," she said. "He kind of inspired me to be tougher in my own life."

Rypien had played for the Canucks for six seasons and had signed a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets in July.  

"Even though he wasn't a Canuck this year, he's going to be a Canuck forever," one fan said.

Battled depression

Rypien had taken two leaves of absence from the Canucks to battle depression.

His cause of death has not been made public, but police described his passing as "sudden and not suspicious."

Rypien played for the Canucks for six seasons. ((Canadian Press))

Rypien was a former team captain of the Regina Pats and played three full seasons for the WHL team.

Club president Brent Parker said Wednesday the player's death should prompt a closer examination of concussions and possible links to mental illness.

Rypien was known as a fighter on the ice.

"He took some blows," Parker said, adding he did not know if Rypien's reported problems with depression were directly related to on-ice hits.

"I don't know," Parker said, "but it is certainly something I've questioned and asked over the last 24 hours."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday he expects the league to review its substance abuse and behavioural health program following the deaths of Rypien and of New York Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard in May.

Both players spent time in the program, which is run in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association.

Boogaard died at age 28 due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.

"My guess is we'll talk at the appropriate time with the players' association, making sure that we're comfortable with all of the mechanisms and programs we have in place, which are extensive," Bettman said.

"I don't think any sports league does more than we do, but maybe there's more, as we focus on it, that we need to focus on. I know it's always hard for people to accept, but sports is a microcosm of society in general.

"And life isn't always easy."

With files from The Canadian Press