Vancouver Canucks center Rick Rypien has been suspended six games for shoving a fan on his way to the locker room after receiving a double minor for roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct in the second period against the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday.
As Rypien was on his way to the locker room to serve the misconduct, James Engquist, a 28-year-old Wild fan sitting right next to the tunnel, began heckling Vancouver's forward, provoking Rypien to losing his cool and attacking the fan.
The incident has resulted in many reactions around the hockey world, including newspapers, television programs and blogs. While everyone agrees that Rypien was wrong for shoving the fan, some believe that he's not the villain in this situation.
According to rumors, Engquist said some offensive comments about Rypien and his family. Kyle Reagan, a contributor to Bleacher Report, says:
"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? 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?"
I completely understand where Reagan is coming from; if it were me, and some fool in the stands, nonetheless a few feet away from me, speaking nasty things about my family or myself, I'd probably do a lot worse than shove the guy.
But that's not the case, and you absolutely cannot make any excuses for what Rypien did as he is the professional hockey player, making six digits to play a game that involves fans trying to get under your skin.
It's strictly the player's responsibility to stay in control of his emotions throughout a game, no matter how hard or the content of the fan's heckling. For Rypien to lose control and physically attack Engquist was absolutely out of line.
For that reason, it's an injustice to the integrity of the league to only suspend Rypien for six games.
We don't know the real story of what was being said to Rypien by the fan, however that doesn't change anything. Engquist could have made fun of Rypien's mom, or wife/girlfriend, it still doesn't make what he did acceptable.
Since when has it ever been okay for a professional athlete to get into any physical altercation with a paying fan during a game? Never.
Look at Ron Artest, who was at the center of attention during the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons brawl back in 2004. Artest was suspended 73 regular season games, and the playoffs for going into the stands, and getting in a fight.
Totally different circumstances, for sure. While all Rypien did was give a little shove to a fan, it's still the same principal. The NBA made clear that such action was unacceptable, and if you enter the stands or have any kind of physical altercation with a paying customer, it would result in a hefty punishment.
Surprisingly, I'm suggesting the NHL learn something from the Association. Don't hand Rypien a slap on a wrist, strike fear into every player that any kind of physical altercation with fans will not be tolerated.
I'm not suggesting ban Rypien from the face of the planet, or the rest of the season, but six games?
One has to wonder what if it was New York Rangers' pest Sean Avery, or the ever-so clean Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins. What if they shoved a fan at a Flyers game, would they receive the same treatment?
Not even close.
Consistency and fairness needs to come to mind when NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell hands out his suspensions.
If it's a crime one time, it's a crime every time.
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