COLWOOD, B.C. (CP) - Rick Rypien took it easy over the off-season, visiting family and friends in his hometown of Coleman, Alta. - the centre didn't play much hockey last season either, sidelined by a series of injuries.
Now, fresh off a spring groin operation, Rypien is finally healthy, back at training camp and trying to earn a spot with the Vancouver Canucks.
"I think with the style that I play, you knew an injury was going to happen," said Rypien. "Being a smaller guy and playing that way, I think injuries are going to be part of it."
Rypien is not concerned about his relaxed off-season.
"I think I'll be alright conditioning-wise - I just have to stay healthy," he said.
Staying healthy has been Rypien's biggest problem lately. He broke his thumb during last year's training camp. Then he injured his groin, while playing for the Canucks farm team, the Manitoba Moose, on Oct. 20.
He came back Oct. 26 and managed to last 13 days before re-injuring his hand. He sat out five games to play for the Moose on Nov. 29.
Two days later, Rypien was called up to the Canucks. He played a game-and-a-half before a season-ending groin injury.
"It tore right off the bone," Rypien said. He also injured his abdomen at the same time, ending his year after just 14 games with Manitoba and two with the Canucks.
Rypien comes by his fighting instinct naturally - his father was a Canadian Golden Glove boxing champion when he was 19. "I've picked up a lot of stuff from him," Rypien said.
Canucks centre Brendan Morrison likes Rypien's gutsy style of play. "He's probably about my size, but he plays like he's six-foot-four," Morrison said. "He's a guy who's always go, go, go. His work ethic is tremendous and is the whole reason why he is where he is today."
But while Rypien said he'll keep dropping the gloves when necessary, he'll back down a little this season.
"I think I need to start being a little smarter instead of going all-out all the time," he said. "You need to be a little more cautious."
Rypien isn't sure whether he'll be destined for Vancouver or Manitoba this season, and neither is Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
"He hasn't played a lot in the last two years, so I don't know how all this is going to unfold," Vigneault said. "So far he's looked really good. He's got great jump on the ice and great energy, so we'll have to see what he does."
Vigneault believes there's a place for feisty players like Rypien on the team.
"There's a need for players that play with grit and emotion, and sometimes when you play that way it means that the gloves come off," he said.