Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rick Rypien's passing provides an opportunity to address hockey taboos

"But if Rypien’s story can compel one person to seek help; if it can put a human face to this debilitating disease, then, maybe, some value can come of this." -- A heartfelt observation from Vancouver Province writer Ed Willes, who captures the sense of disbelief in Vancouver and across the NHL over the passing of Rick Rypien.

The Vancouver Canucks organization, like much of the hockey world in North America was shocked to hear of the passing of Rick Rypien, the reserved one time Canuck was a popular player with his team mates and a fan favourite and yet despite that respect and admiration, he battled demons that eventually took hold and left us all asking the question we always do when the inexplicable happens, why?

Towards an answer to that question, the Vancouver Canucks will apparently take the lead, ready to talk about a subject that far too often gets sidestepped, depression and its impact on not only hockey players but all segments of our society.

Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province and Iain Macintyre have both put together illuminating columns for us on how depression ebbs and flows and how it can impact on our everyday lives.

How one day a player could seem to be ready to have a long and rewarding NHL career, only to have everything turn on its head a day later.

Their articles, are two of many in the last ten days that have tried to come to terms with the events of mid August, seeking to offer some sense of where to go from here.

Bruce Arthur at the National Post also provided an informative piece in the shocked period that the  word of Rypien's passing first came, asking questions that need to be asked in the wake of the recent passing of young hockey players, who left us far too soon.

The three articles cited above and many others are instructive for all and offer up much to think about, how we need to deal with the issue of depression, how we should not stigmatize those afflicted by it, but offer help and compassion.  Seeking to understand a disease and what it can do to a person, sometimes resulting in terrible decisions and outcomes that end only in sadness and mourning for many who feel helpless.

There are many issues that like all of us NHL players face through their careers and beyond,  all NHL teams as well as league and union officials should resolve to better understand those issues, and offer up a more proactive health plan for their players of today and on into retirement.

Fans as well need to realize that far beyond the boards life can be a challenge for those that entertain us on a nightly basis, while we celebrate their achievements and actions on the ice, there are items of concern to note long after the cheers and applause have faded.

When players such as Rick Rypien pass on, it brings home the message that life is a complicated thing and fame and fortune sometimes are facades to real human frailties. Like all of us, they face these things on a daily basis, and you can only hope that the signs are noted and the help made available whenever required.

As Willes wrote in his article today, The Canucks and more to the point General Manager Mike Gillis hope to shed some light on one of those life conditions,  hopeful that their message will  counsel those that need help, to seek it out.

The link to the Willes article can be found here, the Macintyre offering here,  they are both well worth a read, offering up some insight to a subject that few of us ever wish to discuss, knocking down a wall that needs to be knocked down.

(picture above from website)

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