NHL: Is Vancouver Canucks' Rick Rypien the Villian He's Being Made Out to Be?

Chuck SteakContributor IOctober 20, 2010

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 23:  Rick Rypien #37 of the Vancouver Canucks hits Richard Clune #56 of the Los Angeles Kings with a punch during a fight in the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 23, 2010 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks center Rick Rypien was suspended indefinitely by the NHL for a physical confrontation with 28-year-old James Engquist on the way to the locker room, and it seems everyone is condemning his actions. The replay looks bad and the situation reads paper on paper, but is Rypien really a villain here?

The short answer: No.

If you recall why Rypien was heading into the locker room it was because he had just punched a Minnesota Wild player, and was a serving a 10-minute misconduct penalty. This isn't the big story though, because it is a part of hockey, a sport where fighting is not uncommon. The story is about him shoving a fan in the crowd.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

We love brutal hits, devastating checks, bench-clearing brawls and just the raw violence in NHL hockey. That's why we pay these athletes millions of dollars a year to deliver these punishments to each other. But, as soon as one of these guys steps out on the rink and does something that isn't even as violent, all of the sudden everyone has a big issue?

As the rumors have it, the fan (who was sitting right next to the tunnel about three feet from the players) said some nasty things to Rypien about the player himself and his family. This then incited the quick confrontation that resulted in Rypien pushing and shoving the fan. Still may seem like an overreaction, but keep thinking about it.

Put yourself in Rypien's skates. In a situation, even a public one, what if someone you don't know and never met before goes and spews some nasty stuff about your family (i.e. your wife, your mom, your kids)? Do you keep your cool and walk away, or do you take action? Start to see how this, in another forum, isn't really all that outlandish?

Maybe all of us wouldn't immediately get physically violent and start pushing and shoving, but that's the nature of certain people. Someone who is already labeled a "bad boy" and who is paid to be violent, like discussed previously, certainly wouldn't be expected to act any differently than he did, logically.

People need to realize when you buy your ticket and go to a sporting event this does not give you the right to say whatever you feel like. At a hockey game it's not uncommon for people to consume (too much) alcohol and yell and curse, it might not be right either but it's accepted. This is rowdy behavior, but it doesn't mean it's without lines that can be crossed. Malicious personal attacks have no place even amongst this atmosphere, as unrefined as it may already be.

That fan called out Rick Rypien and verbally attacked him and his family, what did he think was going to happen? Does he think being in the stands at a sporting event absolves him from responsibility? It shouldn't and it didn't. Assault may be over the top, but he put himself in that situation nonetheless. Overall, should a society that promotes violence and bold action from men through numerous facets not be appalled when a man does something violent?

Does the NHL have to suspend him? Yeah, they do. This is a business with rules and he broke those rules and we can't set a precedent that leads to Ron Artest-like behavior. However, Rick Rypien wasn't out of line necessarily.

I feel like a lot of people aren't going to agree with this, so feel free to comment and discuss.