As Marc Bombay detailed in an article earlier this morning, today is Bell Canada Let’s Talk Day. Several teams and players are promoting the cause today through social media, but for others the cause really hits home. As Marc stated in his article, Bell is also partnering with Do It For Daron, an initiative started by former NHLer and current Ottawa Senators assistant coach, Luke Richardson. Richardson tragically lost his 14 year old son Daron three years ago, after a long fight with mental illness.
The Winnipeg Jets are also doing something special for mental illness awareness today. The team will wear special Rick Rypien jerseys jerseys during tonight’s pregame warm ups against the Nashville Predators. Later, the jerseys will go up for auction on NHL.com with proceeds going to the Hockey Talks Mental Health Awareness / Research initiative.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 28, 2014
Rypien got his start at the professional level with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose in 2005 (the team was then owned by True North). He spent the next six seasons splitting time between the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba. Rypien struggled with clinical depression throughout his life and sadly took his own life in August of 2011. A month prior, he had signed a contract with the Winnipeg Jets. He never got to join the team. Since then, the Jets have honored his legacy and have used the tragedy to raise mental health awareness.
It is also appropriate that tonight’s game is against the Nashville Predators. They too experienced a mental health tragedy of their own. Only two weeks after Rypien’s suicide, Wade Belak was found in his apartment dead from an apparent suicide.
While raising mental health awareness, the Winnipeg Jets remind us that depression can affect anyone, even someone seemingly living their dream and playing professional hockey. The Rick Rypien tragedy shocked the hockey world and opened our eyes to the issue of mental health in professional hockey. With Hockey Talks, the Winnipeg Jets are taking a horrible event and using it to hopefully help others and create awareness of an important health issue.