The Vancouver Canucks will remember Rick Rypien tonight at Rogers Arena. The ceremony will feature a video tribute to Rypien, who passed away this summer after a battle with depression. There will also be an on-ice presentation before the Canucks take on the Rangers. The game will be televised across Canada on TSN. For those who can’t watch on TV, the ceremony will be streamed live on the Canucks’ website.
It promises to be an emotional night for everyone, but perhaps nobody will feel it more than Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
The Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre wrote about the close bond that developed between Bieksa and Rypien as the latter struggled with mental illness.
While driving together to a workout before the Canucks’ 2008 training camp, Rypien confided in Bieksa about his mental issues, his anxiety and worry.
A few months later, when Rypien disappeared during his first leave of absence from the team, Bieksa and Moose general manager Craig Heisinger, who was like a second father-figure to Rick, met in Edmonton after a Canuck game and drove to Rypien’s home in southwestern Alberta.
“We went there looking for him,” Bieksa said. “Didn’t know what we’d find. We went to his house for four or five hours, just the two of us, hoping he’d come home and he finally did. That wasn’t the best day for him. But we got him back and we got him help.”
Naturally, people are still wondering why this happened. Was it because Rypien was a fighter? Was it because his girlfriend died in a car accident years ago? Bieksa wants everyone to know it was more complicated than that.
“There were a lot of things going on,” he said.
Image courtesy Canucks.com
The Canucks will honor Rypien’s memory with a $50,000 donation to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation to develop a website that will help young people recognize symptoms and better understand mental illness.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.