Kevin Bieksa tells the story of a fight. It was just one of many in the veteran defenceman’s long career — and this one was way back in the minors, when he was with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. But Bieksa can see it clearly. He squared off with one guy while right behind him his teammate and friend Rick Rypien battled another. They were surrounded like Batman and Robin facing off against the Joker’s thugs — pow! Bam! Boom! And they both won. They laughed about it in the dressing room afterwards — the oddity of standing back to back, fighting together like superheroes. Bieksa loves that story. He’s told it many times and he’ll tell it many more. Just like he loves to tell the story about being called up to the Vancouver Canucks from the Moose for the first time on the same day Rypien. It was 2005 and they were both still kids. There so much unknown possibility ahead of them. Bieksa was first to suit up for their new team, but took a while to get on the board. Rypien scored his first goal on his first shot of his first shift. “He outdid me for sure,” Bieksa laughs. The Anaheim Ducks defenceman has been talking about Rypien since he died by suicide in 2011 at just 27 years old. Bieksa won’t stop talking about him; he refuses to. “It’s been six years now,” he says. “Rick’s story is one that I don’t want to go away.” And so Bieksa tells the story of a snowstorm. After a Canucks game in Edmonton during the 2008–09 season, the team travelled on without him so he could drive through the night to find his friend. Rypien had taken a leave of absence from the Canucks. He had confided in Bieksa about his struggle with depression at training camp that year. Rypien hadn’t been diagnosed then — he just knew he was fighting something that was difficult to explain. “He said he wasn’t feeling right and that he wasn’t coming back,” Bieksa recalls. And then no one could get a hold of him. Bieksa was worried. He drove with Craig Heisinger, then the general manager of the Manitoba Moose and another confidant of Rypien’s, through an Albertan snowstorm for more than five hours to Rypien’s hometown in Crowsnest Pass. They found their friend, and convinced him to return to Vancouver and move in with Bieksa’s young family.
Why Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about Rick Rypien
Sportsnet | Nov 18