Vancouver Canucks: Rick Rypien Suspension Raises Questions Among NHL, Fans

Name NameCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2010

Rypien is "sorry" for his actions, but that won't get him far with the NHL.
Rypien is "sorry" for his actions, but that won't get him far with the NHL.Rich Lam/Getty Images

Rugged Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien made his court appearance Friday and received a six-game suspension for pushing a fan, during an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Wild. 

After a scrum with the Wild's Brad Staubitz, Rypien was sent to the dressing room. He surprisingly grabbed a fan who was clapping at his dismissal and muttering the words, "way to be professional." Can we say overreaction?

Rypien was suspended immediately, pending a hearing.

“Prior to each season, all clubs and players are advised that, under no circumstance are club personnel permitted to have physical contact with fans, or enter or attempt to enter the stands,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“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.”

Some people, likely Canucks die-hards, believe that six games is an unreasonable punishment and that the fan had it coming.

However, most people think six games is a joke, a weak punishment that laughs in the face of the NHL. The most recent six-game suspension was Sean Avery's, which he received for his Elisha Cuthbert-Dion Phaneuf controversy.

So, assaulting a paying fan is equal to telling a "sex joke"?

When you put it like that, it looks like the NHL dropped the ball on this one. Most people had anticipated anywhere from 10-20 games. Even the odds makers had the over-under for Rypien at 15 games.

When upset fans are expecting 15 games, six is comparable to your waiter or waitress forgetting to bring the salt to your table. Disappointing.

Now, this isn't an issue that will just go away. Rypien's actions have brought up a multitude of questions among the NHL and fans alike.

The line between fans and players during games is generally believed to be one that should remain uncrossed. If there is tension between a player and a fan, who is to blame? 

This brings us to another topic. Hecklers are a relatively new breed in the NHL, the type who show up just to bug the life out of players. Also known as a pest or nuisance, a talented heckler can tick off a player by simply yelling and/or making hand gestures.

In most cases hecklers are unsuccessful, watching players keep their cool until the game is over. Of course, God knows how they release their anger in the locker room.

Some players are completely oblivious to the bleacher creatures and take the whole thing in stride. 

However, some don't have that ability.

With the increase of, for lack of a better word, "angry" players in the NHL, there is a question of whether or not the league should punish hecklers who cross the line. Referencing a player's personal life or unpublicized issues are things that could be considered forbidden.

On the other hand, should the fans be allowed to do what they want, when they want? Only the calmest of characters can withstand an onslaught of insults, but is that tranquility needed to be an NHL player?

Boston Bruins enforcer Brian McGrattan knows where he stands on the issue.

"You just don't do that," McGrattan said regarding Rypien's actions. "There's just that line between the fans and players that we can't cross. You can't grab fans. It doesn't matter what they say, if they're paying $300 for a ticket, they can say whatever they want."

One would likely find that the general public agrees with McGrattan's assessment. Although he was referencing the Rypien incident, his quote stands for a lot more.

When asked whether he thought Rypien's suspension was correct, he had this to say.

"I don't know, not really. You look at a guy, that if I did that, or (Derek) Boogaard or (Colton) Orr or Thorty (Shawn Thornton) did that, would it be six games or would it be 15? So I don't know, I think he deserves more. Just for the fact that if a legit tough guy in the league or someone who really plays that big enforcer role did that, I think it would be more." 

His points are pretty valid if you ask me. Bottom line is, the suspension is laughable. 15 games would have been in the ballpark, even Brian McGrattan agrees.

Fans will do their own thing and as long as nothing too incredibly insulting occurs, players should just let them be. 

Heck, hecklers will be hecklers.