On Tuesday October 19th, Rick Rypien had a heated game. The Canucks were losing badly (5-1 at that point) to the Minnesota Wild, and Rypien had already been a fight. As he was being escorted off the ice back to the dressing room, he leans over the railing and shoves a Minnesota fan who was mocking him.
I recommend checking out the video clip, as I have seen some wildly inaccurate hyperbole in articles describing this incident. It is bad enough as it is, without exaggerating and saying that Rypien leap into the crowd and started pummeling an innocent fan.
Rypien did deliver a shove with both hands, and seemed ready to do more before being grabbed by his teammates.
Now I'm not sure what the Wild fan said, but he was clearly mocking Rypien with sarcastic clapping as he headed to the dressing room.
Manny Malhotra, who was right there, claims that the fans started the physical altercation, although the available video doesn't support that. "We are all for the hootin' and hollerin' and supporting your team and saying whatever is tasteful out there. But as soon as you cross that line and want to become physical with a player, we have to make sure we take care of ourselves and we're protected."
Also, and this in no way excuses Rypien's action, but what kind of stupid setup is that, where there is no real barrier or security between the fans and the visiting team's bench area? We've all seen stupid (or drunk) fans at sporting events, and it looks like anyone there could reach out and grab a player (after all if Rypien could easily reach across that railing, a fan could going the other way) or hurl a beer instead of verbal abuse, etc This was an incident waiting to happen with that setup.
The question now is how long Rypien will be suspended. He has a meeting today with Gary Bettman to discuss the incident. Five games to me seems appropriate, as it was only a shove, not a punch being thrown, and the fan was up in his face. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was ten games.
And will the Canucks brass levy any additional punishment of their own? They are trying to build a family brand with the players being ambassadors for the team, and what sort of image does this show?
*Roberto Luongo should also be thanking Rypien. If it wasn't for this incident and suspension, we'd be talking about how Luongo has absolutely sucked the last two games (I don't blame him for the Anaheim game), looking like an AHL goalie rather than the All Star he is supposed to be. But at least Cory Schneider looks good.
1. Rypien's hearing will be Friday October 22. Until then he is indefinitely suspended, and the rumor on Vancouver Sports Radio (Team 1040) is that the NHL has indicated it would be 5 games min.
2. The fan involved is going legal, as reported by Puck Daddy. This may be why the NHL is taking its time to drop the hammer on Rypien, as they examine liability.