October 20, 2010
UPDATE: From the NHL, here's the latest -- "Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien(notes) has been suspended, pending a hearing, as a result of becoming involved in an altercation with a fan during NHL Game #76 last night in Minnesota. The incident took place at 13:38 of the second period. The League will have no comment until the matter has been resolved"
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To reset the scene: Rick Rypien was leaving the ice after earning a 10-minute misconduct for a sucker punch on Brad Staubitz(notes) of the Wild in what was, at the time, a 5-1 blowout for the home team. (The Wild went on to win, 6-2). The Vancouver Canucks pugilist noticed a Minnesota fan clapping and taunting him as he left the ice, and snapped: Grabbing at the fan's Wild jersey before being pushed into the tunnel by members of the Canucks bench.
Look, there's no getting around the fact that Rypien committed a mortal sin for a professional athlete, which is putting his hands on a paying customer in a violent manner. It's inexcusable in this instance, because the fan did nothing physical to provoke Rypien. It was just a hotheaded goon, riled up over the on-ice incident, attacking a fan.
A suspension is mandatory, given the NHL's history with this sort of thing and its own bylaws. From Puck World on the Vancouver Sun website:
The NHL's Rule 23.7 states that "Any player, goalkeeper or non-playing Club personnel who physically interferes with the spectators, becomes involved in an altercation with a spectator, or throws any object at a spectator, shall automatically incur a game misconduct penalty and the Referee shall report all such infractions to the Commissioner who shall have full power to impose such further penalty as he shall deem appropriate."
(The referees might need a primer on that whole "game misconduct" part, as Rypien was in the penalty box during the third period.)
In our minds, and almost unanimously in the hockey world, it's not a matter of "if" but of "how long." So with that, we ask you dear readers:
To each his or her own, but we're absolutely floored by some of the overreactions to this incident from otherwise rational people.
First, the most unintentionally hilarious take on the affair, in which the homer announcers for Vancouver blame the fan and claim he's more concerned with his beer than anything else:
Many of the reactions have been of the "uh oh, Rick Rypien's in trrrrouble" variety, like this benign take from NHL Network:
Others were a little more pointed. Nathan from Hockey Wilderness, a Wild blog, compares Rick Rypien vs. hockey fan to Ron Artest during the Pacers/Pistons riot:
So, what do you think? Does that look like a father protecting his child? Does it add to the already lengthy punishment that should be coming down from Colin Campbell? Remember, Ron Artest got 73 games for attacking a fan. If it turns out that it is a child, Rypien needs to miss the rest of the season. No question about it.
AN ENTIRE SEASON. For grabbing and jostling a fan, who was uninjured in the incident (by all accounts).
And evoking Ron Artest? The Ron Artest who did this:
And comparing it to this:
Chris Botta from AOL FanHouse mentions Artest but downplays the comparison; instead, he declares that Rick Rypien deserves to be suspended for a quarter of the season:
No, what Rypien did in his momentary lapse of reason is not equal to the disgraceful sideshow produced by the Pacers and the Pistons. No, it was nothing compared to Mike Milbury and the Boston Bruins going into the stands of Madison Square Garden in 1979 and brawling with Rangers fans.
But Rypien broke the boundary. It doesn't matter if the fans heckled him or his teammates. It doesn't matter if Minnesota security was too slow to close the gate that could have prevented the action. Rypien crossed the line. This was dangerous. This was scary.
Besides an apology, Rypien should sit for 20 games to think about what he did. He should also sit for those 20 games so no NHL player ever thinks about going after a paying customer again.
Totally. That's why there are no longer any injuries for boarding or stick fouls.
What's incredible about this take from Botta is that he's a New York Islanders blogger, which means he's seen what a 25-game suspension looks like. We hate playing the equivocation game with suspensions, but seriously: Rypien's grab is worth five fewer games than Simon using Ryan Hollweg's(notes) head as a piñata?
In 2004, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was fined $100,000 and given a one-week suspension by the league for an altercation with a season ticket holder.
[In 2000-01], Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matthew Barnaby received a four-game suspension for an incident with a fan in Florida...
So what does Rypien deserve?
Five games is the minimum. We'd say 10 games are the maximum and would be a stout suspension that would get the casual fan's attention. Anything over that, and we're once again seeing the NHL overplay its hand because of the perception of an image problem that, honestly, it doesn't have anymore but is hypersensitive about.
But knowing Bettman when confronted with an image problem ... well, perhaps we'll see you for Christmas, Rick Rypien.