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Funeral held for Rick Rypien

BLAIRMORE, Alberta -- Nearly 1,000 people remembered Rick Rypien on Saturday in the arena where the Winnipeg Jets forward played his minor hockey.

Just days after the 27-year-old tough guy died suddenly in his southern Alberta home, a large crowd turned out on a bright sunny day at Albert Stella Arena for Rypien's funeral.

Rypien, who last played with the Vancouver Canucks, died Monday at his offseason home in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where a police official said a call was answered for a "sudden and non-suspicious" death.

Rypien, who struggled with depression, had signed with the Jets during the offseason after six years with the Canucks.

Rypien's death came as a surprise to many who knew him and thought he had turned a corner. They said he was looking forward to playing for the newly relocated Jets.

"My overwhelming question is why? How could this happen?" his uncle, Allan Rypien Jr., said. "He had a great family, great friends and a great job.

"He fought this disease with everything he had in him. If you knew Rick, he fought with everything he had in him. Unfortunately the disease won the battle."

A number of minor hockey players wearing Crowsnest Pass Thunder hockey jerseys were among those in attendance.

An autographed No. 37 jersey from Rypien's time with the Canucks and a poster from his days with the WHL's Regina Pats were part of items scattered among bunches of flowers.

Rypien's former Vancouver teammate Kevin Bieksa was one of the pallbearers. His cousin, former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, attended the service, as well.

The program, with a photo of a smiling Rypien in a blue Vancouver jersey, said simply, "Until we all meet again."

Rypien is the second NHL tough guy to die during this offseason. New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died in May in Minnesota due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.