Bieksa carrying on Rypien's legacy with mindcheck.ca

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Bieksa carrying on Rypien's legacy with mindcheck.ca

VANCOUVER Kevin Bieksa is a tough guy, playing in a tough-guy league.

Be strong, keep a stiff upper lip: thats the mantra of so many sporting types. Talking about sensitive subjects, such as a serious illness like depression, happens rarely.

Bieksa, for one, has had enough of the silence in and out of the locker room. The Vancouver Canucks defenseman lost one of his best friends, Rick Rypien, last summer when the young forward committed suicide after a long battle with depression. So Bieksa is doing his part to help shed the keep-quiet stigma of mental illnesses.

One week ago Bieksa spear-headed the relaunch of mindcheck.ca, a website designed to bring more awareness and get people talking about mental illnesses. The site features various categories as well as a Reality Check quiz to help people identify symptoms.

Bieksa said it was important that he do this for Rypien, who wanted to help others battling the same illness he was.

What he always talked about doing was giving back, doing something that could help other kids who were in the same situation as him, sharing his story and struggles, he said. This is just kind of lending that ear, showing there are other people out there. Its kind of me carrying on Ricks legacy.

And it needed to be done. The stigma surrounding mental illness goes well beyond sports locker rooms. Millions suffer from depression, yet there is not nearly enough awareness, or talk, about it.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman John Scott lost his close friend, enforcer Derek Boogaard, to an overdose last summer. Boogaard was suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy a degenerative brain disease that can cause dementia, depression and memory loss. Scott commended Bieksa for his work with the website.

Its so hidden, especially among athletes, Scott said of the stigma. We try to be so tough, to hide everything and not show feelings around the guys. Just to make it known that lots of people deal with it, its needed.

Scott admitted he was affected by Boogaards death.

Ive had nights where I was depressed; luckily I had my wife to talk to, he said. A lot of guys dont have someone to bounce feelings off of. Its good that its starting to come out into the open. Its good of Kevin to do that.

Response has been strong. Bieksa said he didnt have the exact numbers, but he estimated that mindcheck.ca gets more than 40,000 visitors a day now compared to the few hundred per day it got previously. Teammate Henrik Sedin wore a mindcheck.ca T-shirt at the All-Star festivities in Ottawa last weekend.

Bieksa has also received heartfelt messages on his Twitter account.

A lot of people are saying how much they appreciate it, that its a good idea. Some people are admitting theyre currently struggling with depression or anxiety and the website is a great help, he said. That means a lot to get those responses.

The mindcheck.ca website is bringing awareness to mental illness. It could save lives. Bieksa is doing it this for everyone but especially for his friend who never got the chance.

(Rypien) kind of became a brother to me. I got close with him and his family, he said. Its obviously the biggest loss Ive ever had to endure.

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews set up the game-winning goal to Brad Marchand as Team Canada rallied back to beat Europe, 2-1, to complete the two-game sweep in the final at the World Cup of Hockey.

After Patrice Bergeron tied the game with a tip-in on the power play late in the third period, Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping, giving Europe a power play for a chance to respond.

But midway through the man advantage, the Blackhawks captain retrieved the puck and carried it into Europe territory before dropping it off to Marchand, who snapped home the shorthanded game-winner with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.

It was the second goal in a span of 2:09, helping Canada capture their second straight World Cup title (2004).

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament after scoring four goals and seven assists in six games. 

Toews was fourth among all players in the tournament with five points (three goals and two assists).

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.

“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”

The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.

During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.

If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.

But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.

“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.

“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”

BRIEFLY

- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."

- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice

- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”