Family, friends and former Vancouver Canucks teammates were among the nearly 1, 000 who turned out in Blairmore, Alta., on Saturday for the funeral of NHL forward Rick Rypien.
Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa was a pallbearer, while Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra and Alexandre Burrows also attended the funeral at Albert Stella Arena, where Rypien played his minor hockey. Also in attendance were Vancouver GM Mike Gillis and Rypien’s cousin, former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien.
Rick Rypien, 27, who had signed a contract with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this summer after six seasons with the Canucks, was found in his home in nearby Coleman, Alta., on Monday night. Rypien had struggled with depression, and police say his death was not suspicious.
Rypien's death came as a surprise to many who knew him -- they said he was looking forward to playing for the newly relocated Jets.
"My overwhelming question is why? How could this happen?" asked his uncle, Allan Rypien Jr., "He had a great family, great friends and a great job."
Allan Rypien said his nephew was battling a disease not unlike cancer.
"He fought this disease with everything he had in him," he said. "If you knew Rick he fought with everything he had in him. Unfortunately the disease won the battle.
"Be thankful the battle he faced is over."
An autographed No. 37 jersey from Rypien's tenure with the Canucks and a poster from his days with the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats were among the mementos scattered among bunches of flowers.
The program, with a smiling photo of Rypien in a blue Vancouver jersey, said simply "Until we all meet again."
Rypien is the second NHL player to die in the offseason. Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard passed away in May.
Material from wire services was used in this report