No one disputes that Rypien was wrong in grabbing at a taunting fan. No one except the homer Vancouver announcers, that is. Rogers Sportsnet gives us the hilarious play-by-play.
Rypien’s already been suspended pending a hearing, as he should be. You don’t go after the fans. It’s like breaking the fourth wall in theater, or Shamu eating a spectator at Sea World: it’s confusing and wrong.
But the league’s probably going to be foolish and suspend him for 10 games or more. That’s absurd. He grabbed the kid (who was clapping in his face, and not much more), but never tried to throw a punch, and seemed to regain control pretty quickly. This isn’t Mike Milbury beating a fan with his own shoe.
There’s certainly precedent to let Rypien off easy. Tie Domi wasn’t even suspended for fighting with a fan in the penalty box. (Yes, the fan crossed into his territory, but Domi instigated it with a water bottle.) That same year, Matthew Barnaby got four games for a mini-throwdown with a fan.
Does four games seem fair? Round it off to five, why not. That’s what most thinking people feel Rypien deserves, yet you just know this is going to be one of those things the NHL overreacts to. So concerned with being family- and fan-friendly, and wanting to distance itself from a perception that no one’s actually held in decades, Bettman’s going to come down hard on Rypien as a warning.
To who? What other players were considering rushing the stands to fight fans? When this happens, it’s clearly an emotional spur-of-the-moment decision, and no one’s going to think clearly through the anger fog and remember, hey, didn’t a fourth line center get punished for this once?
What if Colie Campbell’s discipline wasn’t so arbitrary and capricious? History will be made.