In a town of just over 1,000 people in Coleman, Alberta, no one would've pictured a future NHLer coming out of there except for Rick Rypien. He knew he would be that person and he wasn't going to stop until it happened.
And then it did happen.
But it wasn't without some hard work and perseverance. Rypien was spotted in Regina, where he was finishing out a junior career in the WHL with the Pats, and made his way to Manitoba to begin a new chapter in professional hockey.
Now in his third full season with the Canucks, he reflects on the road that got him here today. Rypien shares his tales from his road to the NHL.
How old were you when you got your first pair of skates?
I think I was four. I have a stick from when I was younger but not the skates anymore. I think they were an old old pair of CCMs.
What was your first hockey team?
The Pass Rangers back in my hometown in Coleman, Alberta.
A lot of the guys I grew up with were on the team and my dad was the coach. I think I was probably five or six.
What was hockey like growing up in your hometown?
It was a really small town but it had a really good minor hockey program and it's still really good to this day too. I think hockey was the main thing in the town like many Canadian towns and that’s pretty much one of the main sports there.
For a small town, they had two arenas and normally small towns don’t even have one but they had two so that was pretty good.
Growing up the rink was my...
Place I wanted to have fun.
What can you remember about this photo (pictured above right)?
This was playing for the IGA team. Obviously I was a big Blue Jays fan but I’m not anymore. I’m not really a baseball fan now. Usually I was either 14 or 16 so I don’t know why I was wearing 21 there. That's all I remember - I don't even know how old I was in that picture.
How did you get into hockey?
My dad played hockey and my older brother, Wes, played so I got into it from them. They showed me and then I just loved the sport right from the start.
What role did your family have in helping you get to the NHL?
They’re probably the biggest part of everything because of the support they give me.
Who was your hockey hero growing up?
Probably Wendel Clark because of the way he played. He’s kind of a smaller guy too and works hard so I definitely admire that. And I was a Lindros fan too.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
I think just from my dad and brother and the path that they went so they said don’t give up. Their inspiration through working hard and to have the discipline to do it.
What advice would you give someone aspiring to get into the NHL?
Believe in yourself and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You just have to believe in yourself and if you want it bad enough, you can do it.
What is your proudest hockey moment?
I think just making it to the NHL and the way I went about it doing it.
What was the biggest obstacle to get to where you are today?
Not being drafted and always being smaller and and probably no one in a million years thought I could do it. Trying to overcome that, i just tried to stay positive and knowing that I could do it.
I think not being drafted and having to work your way after that. You kind of look at it and think which way to go but I got lucky enough after junior that Craig Heisinger picked me up and just went from there.
I met Craig in my last junior season with the Regina Pats, he called me up with the Manitoba Moose during the lockout year and got started there. He gave me a great opportunity and I tried to make the most of it.
I always knew that if I worked hard enough - and I always felt something inside that told me I could do it - so if I worked hard enough I would get there.
Do you ever still get the feeling like this is unbelievable that you've made it here?
I think everyday, the longer you’re here, the more you play, everyday you wake up and feel how very fortunate you are and very grateful you are coming in.