Rick Rypien's 6-Game Suspension: Gary Bettman Gets Decision Right

Joel ProsserCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2010

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 1: Rick Rypien #37 of the Vancouver Canucks stretches during warmups before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at General Motors Place on November 1, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada.   (Photo by Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
Nick Didlick/Getty Images

After a meeting on Friday Oct 22 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handed down a six game suspension to Vancouver Canucks' forward Rick Rypien. During a previous game on Tuesday Oct 19, Rypien was involved in an altercation with a Minnesota Wild fan.

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

"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."

I'm not going to go into detail and rehash the incident itself, I wrote an article here on Bleacher Report about it, and you can also view the video clip here.

I will say that I think six games is just right for this situation. And I'm also sure that there will be many, many comments disagreeing with me.

First, let's look at the incident itself, stripping away the media hyperbole. 

Rypien did not climb into the stands, as reported. Nor did he throw any punches. The fan involved was not a teenager as some media outlets were reporting, he is a 28-year-old.

Rypien simply leaned across a railing separating the tunnel to the dressing room from the stands, and shoved a Minnesota Wild fan who was mockingly clapping at his ejection (the fan might have also said something, but the video clip isn't clear).

Is this physical contact with a fan against the rules? Yes.

Is it a serious offence? Yes.

Is six games an appropriate suspension? Yes.

The majority of comments I've seen online, and editorials from the mainstream media, including Vancouver's own Team 1040 sports radio, suggested Rypien would get 10-plus games for this offence, with 20 not being out of the question.

But I looked at the suspension length in context, and originally predicted five games as being reasonable.

Here are some other recent incidents from the last 12 months that only warranted a mere two game suspension.

A blindside hit that sidelined a top line player with a concussion (Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson on Buffalo's Jason Pominville).

An obscene gesture on a live broadcast (James Wisniewski of the New York Islanders, directed towards that paragon of integrity, Sean Avery of the New York Rangers).

A hit from behind that caused a serious injury, including a broken collarbone (Washington's Alexander Ovechkin on Chicago's Brian Campbell).

The last time there was an incident with a fan was back in 2009. A fan was hit by a water bottle thrown into the stands by an NHL head coach (John Tortorella of the New York Rangers) following some heckling. Tortorella was suspended for one playoff game.

Looking at all these previous examples of suspensions (and you can also point at times when there SHOULD have been a suspension, but one wasn't assessed. Matt Cooke, I'm looking in your direction), can you really arguing with intellectual honesty that Rypien's shove deserves more than six games when the standard has been set with intent to injury (and actually causing the injury) only being worth two games?

My opinion is that the suspension length was just right for a serious incident, but putting it in context with other recent suspensions from the league for far more serious on ice incidents.

But judging by the poll and comments on my previous article, and other articles here on Bleacher Report after the suspension was handed down, I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree.

*I can't believe I just wrote an article saying I agree with Gary Bettman. Usually I'd be more likely to blame him for blowing a decision.