What is Hockey Talks?
Hockey Talks is an annual initiative where NHL hockey clubs raise awareness about mental health and offer fans the opportunity to get involved through social media. On January 16th 2019, the Vancouver Canucks dedicated their home game against the Edmonton Oilers to promoting local mental health resources and to dispelling myths about mental illness. Canucks’ players and management showed their support by wearing custom Hockey Talks t-shirts, helmet decals and by sharing information about mental health.
Each year, the Canucks also create and share videos to help raise awareness about the importance of taking care of your mental health and seeking help if needed. Last year, Ben Hutton and Jake Virtanen shared their personal tips for wellness, like how they deal with stress and how to help a teammate who is feeling down.
This year marks the 7th annual Hockey Talks. The initiative started in 2013 to honour the legacy of Rick Rypien – a dedicated Vancouver Canuck player who bravely fought depression.
Rick Rypien was known by his teammates for his sense of humour in the locker room and dedication and strong work ethic on the ice and in the gym. His passion and loyalty to his team was unparalleled.
He grew up in a picturesque, small rural community in Alberta where his love of the outdoors was born. Rick was a true outdoorsman, finding solace in fishing and hunting. Away from the rink, his time was spent with his close-knit family and strong group of friends.
Rick earned a reputation and was noticed for his toughness on the ice. But it was his offensive skills and forechecking abilities that developed him into an all-around player fit for an NHL role. He notched his first goal on his first shift and battled opponents more than twice his size, becoming a fan favourite in his role as David versus Goliath.
While with the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose, he spent countless hours volunteering his time to charitable initiatives that helped children in a number of capacities. He returned home each summer to continue his philanthropic work, volunteering and donating items to hockey camps to foster their growth and encourage young hockey players. Rick was able to do so while battling a disease that can completely encompass a person’s mental and physical state.
Professionally, he served as a protector, always looking out for others. His utmost concern was his teammates. This sentiment was mimicked in his approach to family and friends.
Not wanting to burden others, Rick shied away from revealing his battle with depression until he confided in friends Kevin Bieksa and Craig Heisinger.
He was able to identify his feelings, but was still left confused as to why he was undergoing this type of pain. Rick utilized a number of resources available to him in an attempt to cope with the symptoms associated with depression. He had a strong support network of friends and family which he could talk to about the feelings he was having. Once learning of his condition, the Vancouver Canucks granted him leaves and helped find appropriate medical care to help Rick in his struggle against depression.
A hockey hero, a son, a brother, a teammate, a friend – Rick Rypien meant so much to so many. He accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. Rick confided in those he knew best of his plans to support others and help alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness by being a spokesperson of the ordeals of the disease. Those who knew him best have committed to tell his story and carry out the mission as a legacy of their friend, Rick Rypien.
The Vancouver Canuck’s Role in Promoting Mental Health
To honour the legacy of their teammate and friend, the Vancouver Canucks and the Canucks for Kids Fund began a quest to raise awareness of mental health and help overcome stigma. Hockey Talks is one example of the Vancouver Canucks’ leadership in supporting mental health in the community. They have also been valuable partners in the development of foundrybc.ca, previously mindcheck.ca, and continue to support Balancing Our Minds – an annual initiative where young people host summits in their communities to learn and talk about mental health. We are grateful for their ongoing dedication to supporting youth mental health.
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