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another sad summer

August 22, 2011

Last year it was the abruptness of legendary NHL goon Bob Probert’s passing. This year, two more sudden losses to pro hockey, but without a heart attack to blame; this year, two players took their own lives: Derek Boogard of the NY Rangers in May, and now Rick Rypien of the Vancouver.

In the thick of post-season trades, training, try-outs and salary caps, it’s easy to think the best of the NHL. A new season is on its way, and every team has the same goal, to win the Stanley Cup. But some players don’t come back to the dressing room, a trend that is gracefully addressed in this piece by Ian Brown from The Toronto Globe and Mail.

Hope. It keeps players in the game, down to the final minutes of the playoffs. It also deserts people who go through clinical depression. Hope becomes your enemy, because why would you hope for another day of feeling incomprehensibly pained by your own suffering.

Rypien fights Oiler Stortini, October 19, 2009

That players like Rypien, with access to team physicians, and the kind of health insurance that can get you seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist, a support network of teammates and coaches, and we assume a loving family can lose hope is tragic. That at 27 he could not get relief from his mental anguish makes me both sad and angry. Too many lives are touched by suicide, depression, drugs, pain, isolation.

This season, sure I’ll hope the hometown team goes all the way and wins the cup. But I’ll also hope I don’t have to read another needless hockey obituary.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2011 3:58 pm

    Add to this dubious list Wade Belak, who hanged himself in Toronto, leaving his wife and two children (in Nashville) to mourn. Depression, concussion, death. RIP to each of you, may your pain’s end help those you left behind heal.

  2. October 27, 2011 1:49 am

    Kind hearted concern expressed. Sympathy to all three and their families and friends, and those of the Yaroslavl team. The glorious hockey nights they’d have had in the future, and the whole rest of existence, which is always so different from period of time to period of time, all reside for them in the glorious nights they did have, and the fun they had, of all kinds. …On the question of the three NHL fighters to die, I would like to say that all three were very different people, it wasn’t all an ‘nhl enforcer’ syndrome – they’re real individuals with greatly distinct lives and situations. It’s strange as can be to us, that they’d do this or have this happen, with great careers and strengths and assets in their makeup, able to play that game and to be public figures, but to at the same time suffer so. But that shouldn’t round them off into the one slot as the fourth line role. Boogaard was running a hockey school – fighting hockey, but still – besides his nhl play, educated, along with his brother. A hero to some no doubt, at the profoundest levels of known hero. What to compare Boogaard’s situation to? Belak had a variety of thriving gigs, and plans and hopes. Wildly popular with all kinds of people, and as a person, plenty of players in that role were nowhere near so widely popular as people. And Belak was a very clean fighter I’d note. A clear crisp fighting style. I never viewed him as pure volatile fighter, he was just of the size and strength, and born to that defense of teammates mindset. In a way it really calls to mind the worker status of more traditional emergency personnel, which is what he wanted to be, and probably would have been, had hockey not intervened. Very vertical, standing straight up, a defense first sort of fighter who had to get the real shot in, but safely, real, but very controlled, just to make sure the player knew not to ask for more. Such a different kind of player than Rypien, whom but for his wild style, and the encrosions on his frame over the years, he’d have been an NHL superstar, always a number one centre growing up, a true talent, but such a rough life. This night of Kiwali, the festival of lights, (in the Hindu calendar the darkest night of the year, which it certainly is tonight) …the three might have all played for Yaroslavl next season, including Belak, who retired young. But Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, so many known players, and prospects. There’s no generalizing about hockey players, it’s just the most fun sport to play and to watch, so just about anyone can enjoy it, and enjoy playing hockey if they have the opportunity.

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