TORONTO - Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien has been found dead in his Alberta home.
The Jets confirmed the 27-year-old forward's death in a statement Monday night.
"We are deeply saddened to confirm Rick's passing," the statement read. "As many people are aware, he had strong ties to True North Sports & Entertainment, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, the former Manitoba Moose Hockey Club and the Vancouver Canucks. We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick's friends."
The RCMP in Crowsnest Pass, Alta., said they received a call at 12:30 p.m. MT concerning a "sudden and non-suspicious" death.
Fans created a Facebook tribute page shortly after the reports of the 27-year-old's death surfaced, and former and current teammates posted condolences on Twitter.
"Sad to hear about Rick Rypien," posted Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "I was looking forward to playing with him in Winnipeg. Thoughts are with his family and friends."
Rypien is the second active NHL player found dead in the off-season. Former New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died in May due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.
Prior to joining the Jets, Rypien, the cousin of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, spent parts of six seasons in the Canucks organization, though personal issues had plagued part of his time in Vancouver.
"Rick has been a beloved member of the Canucks family for the past six years. Rick was a great teammate and friend to our players, coaches and staff," the Canucks said in a statement. "We send our deepest condolences to the Rypien family at this most difficult time."
The native of Coleman, Alta., made headlines last October when he pushed a Minnesota Wild fan after leaving the ice following a fight during a game in St. Paul. Rypien was handed a six-game suspension and later apologized for the incident.
Rypien had just one assist in nine games with the Vancouver Canucks last season after leaving the team because of personal issues but later returned with the AHL's Manitoba Moose. It was the second time in three years Rypien left the team to deal with undisclosed personal matters.
"I will always have the memories from Vancouver with Rick..also pound for pound (he) was one of the toughest guys out there," posted New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner, a former teammate of Rypien's in Vancouver.
Rypien signed a one-year deal with the Jets in July worth US$700,000 after posting nine goals, seven assists and 226 penalty minutes over 119 career games with the Canucks.