Today’s program is brought to you by the number 11, which is remembered for two reasons.
It was worn by hockey enforcer Rick Rypien who played for the Manitoba Moose and the Vancouver Canucks. He also starred with the Regina Pats in a junior career that included some tragedy.
Rick would have worn #11 again for the new Winnipeg Jets in their first season. He killed himself almost two years ago after a devastating struggle with depression. The Jets’ True North Foundation has launched Project 11, an effort to get kids in particular, to be more comfortable talking about mental health issues.
When Rick Rypien died, the part about ‘suicide’ was most often spoken in whispers, if it was mentioned at all. That was also the case with Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard. They killed themselves around the same time under similar circumstances, and it resulted in a brief re-examination of the way Canada’s game is played. That’s really about as far as it went.
The other #11 we remember on the prairies is Kenny Ploen, the quarterback of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in their greatest era. He appeared in six Grey Cups, winning four of them, and he has been a proud Winnipegger since moving north from Iowa in 1957.
Kenny is 76 now, but looks like he could still play. He can tell you every detail of his thrilling run for that winning touchdown in the first overtime Grey Cup more than 50 years ago. But he probably can’t tell you what he had for breakfast today.
Kenny Ploen suffers from dementia, as do many other football players who took too many shots to the head over the years. He is well taken care of by a large loving family and dozens of friends.
Hold a good thought for both of these men when you see the number 11, and help others dealing with mental health issues if you can.
I’m Roger Currie
You can listen to Roger Currie’s commentary by clicking on the link below: