Bieksa’s work to honour memory of Rick Rypien is at the heart of his Masterton nomination
In eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Kevin Bieksa has become a part of the community like few players in the organization’s history.
During the NHL’s work stoppage, he was one of the few who stayed in the Lower Mainland to work out, really becoming the face of the lockout in Vancouver.
It was Bieksa who had the drive and motivation to organize a charity hockey game, raising money for Canucks Autism Network, Canucks Family Education Centre and Canuck Place hospice. Bieksa’s work was the reason singer Michael Buble wrote a cheque for $100,000.
But Bieksa’s greatest work is what he’s done to honour the late Rick Rypien, his close friend. That work is the main reason he is the team’s nominee for the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The award goes to an NHL player who shows perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
In his tireless efforts to remember Rypien, Bieksa has become a mindcheck.ca spokesman, bringing public awareness and support to those struggling with mental health issues. He didn’t just set out to honour Rypien -- he wanted to help those who suffer in similar ways by keeping the conversation going. He has succeeded by being open, honest and caring.
It hasn’t been easy.
“Speaking is one thing, but speaking about something that is so near and dear to your heart is still a tough thing to think about,” Bieksa said. “Doing it in front of 300 strangers is tough.
“It’s not something I want to do. But I feel it can help so many people deal with the issue. It can help educate them. It’s almost like I have to do it.
“I have to pass through the discomfort to share my story and to share Rick’s story. It’s what he wanted.
“I’m doing this for him.”
Bieksa has shared the story, and his most personal feelings, about Rypien’s struggles with mental illness.
He also convinced Rypien’s mother, Shelley Crawford, to play in the Raise-It-4-Ryp charity golf tournament held in September.
He is part of the reason seven Canadian NHL clubs participated this year in Hockey Talks, a month-long initiative designed to raise awareness about mental illness.
The hope is that one day it will include all 30 NHL franchises.
It’s real life. It’s life and death. It makes the game seem small.
“It puts the game in its place,” Bieksa said. “This is a game and a business. But at the end of the day, what’s important?
“Life and happiness. I feel this issue is a lot more important than the game. But I can use this platform to get the message out there to raise awareness and help as many people as I can.”
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