It was a dark day two years ago in August when news broke that 27-year-old former Vancouver Canucks player Rick Rypien died after years of struggling with clinical depression.
"A big heart, a troubled mind," is how one media outlet described the young man's rise through the NHL, but fall to depression.
On ice, the small and scrappy forward was known to play David to the many Goliaths he challenged.
But off ice, Rypien strived to help youth suffering from mental illnesses, visiting them and sharing his story.
In the aftermath of his death, friends, family and Canucks players have continued this legacy.
Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, which in its second year, has been organized by friends of Rypien, Karl Gregg (Two Chefs & A Table) and Travis Britton, to help raise awareness.
The event will be held at Mayfair Lakes Golf Course and Country Club next Tuesday, Sept. 3.
"Last year was pretty special," said Kevin Bieksa, Canucks defenseman who will also be at this year's event. "I got to play in a group with (Rick's mom and step-dad.) I stayed around after and talked to Rick's mom. She was very touched with all the support she got from everybody and the success of the tournament."
Bieksa was one of the first people Rypien opened up to about his depression after keeping it to himself for years.
"Guys don't always want to admit their weaknesses," he said. "In our society, it's frowned upon for a guy to reveal his weaknesses and feelings. And that's prevalent in the sports world. People have been reluctant to talk about mental health in the past, but we're trying to change that."
The difference has been felt by 19-year-old Brayden Low, who was raised in Richmond and played with the Sockeyes at the time of Rypien's death.
Low saw a concerted effort by his coaches to address issues of mental health, encouraging players to talk about it and approach them.
"It was quite a shock to everybody in touch with the game," said Low, who now plays for the Everett Silvertips. "It wasn't a great image for the hockey because it seemed like there wasn't enough support for him to talk openly about it for a while."
The McMath secondary graduate said the dynamic between the players changed after 2011, which also saw the death of New York Rangers' Derek Boogaard from an accidental drug and alcohol overdose.
"Guys became more privy to what was going on with each other and checking in," said Low. "It makes us closer though. You never want to see something like that happen to someone you know."
"It's also the responsibility of everybody who knows somebody who suffers from a mental illness to educate themselves," Bieksa added. "Put in the time to learn about the disease so that they can help their friend."
The first Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament donated more than $23,000 to causes such as Mindcheck.ca - a website for young adults to connect with mental health resources - the Canucks Autism Network and the Rick Rypien Hockey Camp.
Organizers strove to keep the event light and fun. "Definitely the focus is to raise money and have fun," said Gregg. "We've been in the food industry for years, so we thought, 'well, let's do something with our knowledge and our connections.'"
Each hole will have a food experience such as a barbeque or oyster bar, or a challenge, according to Gregg.
To learn more, visit www.raiseit4ryp.com.
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