Kevin Bieksa says he still often thinks of Rick Rypien one year after his former teammate's death.
The Vancouver Canucks defenceman joined fellow NHL players Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, and Kris Versteeg to honour Rypien in a charity hockey game Thursday night at the Coleman Sports Complex in Crowsnest Pass, Alta.
Rypien was found dead in his home in Coleman, a town in the amalgamated municipality of Crowsnest Pass, on Aug. 15, 2011. The 27-year-old had just signed a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets after spending parts of six seasons with the Canucks organization.
It was revealed after his death that Rypien had been battling depression.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of Rick, and I am thankful for the opportunity to join his family and friends in an evening celebrating his legacy," said Bieksa in a statement. "Coaching and visiting with these kids gave us a chance to remember what was important to Rick: giving back to kids through the sport of hockey."
Following the game, sponsored by the NHL Players' Association, the players gave members of Rypien's family a memorial plaque and photo books honouring his NHL career.
The NHLPA, through its Goals & Dreams fund, also donated new hockey equipment to the Crowsnest Pass community in Rypien's name.
"Rick loved giving back to the kids in Crowsnest and this donation only furthers his legacy," said Rypien's brother Wes. "It was great to have Kevin, Kris, Tanner and Darcy here to be part of this special event."