October 22, 2010
Friday morning in New York City, Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien(notes) had his in-person hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and czar of discipline Colin Campbell.
Having already missed one game due to his being suspended indefinitely until the hearing could take place, Rypien was given another five Friday afternoon by the NHL and "as required by League policy," the Canucks were fined $25,000. Rypien will be eligible to return to play Nov. 6 against Detroit.
Here's Bettman on the suspension:
"Prior to each season, all clubs and players are advised that under no circumstances are club personnel permitted to have physical contact with fans, or enter, or attempt to enter the stands," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We hold NHL players to a high standard, and there simply is no excuse for conduct of this nature. Fortunately, this incident is not typical of the way NHL players conduct themselves and is not typical of the way Mr. Rypien had conducted himself during his career."
Canucks' GM Mike Gillis reacted to the news with a statement of his own:
"We understand and respect the League's decision today regarding Rick Rypien. While this game is played with passion and intensity, the safety of all of our fans and players is of the utmost importance at all times," said Canucks' GM Mike Gillis in a statement. "Throughout his career Rick has been well respected by his teammates, coaches, fellow players and our community. Rick is a valued member of our organization and we will continue to support him and all of his teammates to ensure incidents like this do not happen in the future."
After the incident on Tuesday, the range of suspension lengths seemed to average between 10-20 games, with many believing a statement needed to be made in this instance. Rypien broke a cardinal rule by going after the paying customer, but in the grand scheme of things, telling sex jokes now equates to grabbing a fan in an opposing arena.
Rypien may not have had the prior run-ins with the NHL like Sean Avery(notes) did, but athletes going after fans is something that a league cannot tolerate from a business standpoint and an image standpoint. Throwing the book at Rypien and making him sit 20-25 games would be an overreaction, but having him sit for 10-12 games would have been a strong enough message that this is a line you cannot cross.
Now that he'll be off until Nov. 6, Rypien will have the time to prepare for a potential lawsuit from the fan he went after.