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Rippin' on Rypien

Rick Rypien has a quick left hook and a quicker temper. Alas, his brain is sometimes late to the fray.

Rypien, a 7-minute-a-game fourth-liner for the Vancouver Canucks, is all over the news today for all the wrong reasons. In last night's game in Minnesota, he completely lost it, committing consecutive inappropriate acts against an opponent, an NHL official, and then a paying fan in the Xcel Energy Centre. While all three incidents should draw the attention of Colin Campbell, it is the last which has generated the biggest headline, namely "NHL player assaults fan". That is so not-good-for-business even Gary Bettman might notice.

It was a bad night for Rypien and his Canucks teammates, who were embarrassed both on and off the ice in a 6-2 shellacking at the hands of the Wild. I can't claim to have watched the game, but it's not too difficult to piece together the events involving Rypien, particularly those two which led to him getting 19 minutes in penalties. Let's have a look after the jump:

In the first period Rypien had a fight with Wild tough guy Brad Staubitz, with Staubitz the clear winner according to a large majority of those who vote on such matters over at . Goes to state of mind, Your Honour.

Late in the second period, with the Canucks now getting thumped 5-1, came the major incident.

To be fair, Rypien was almost certainly responding to what seemed to be a slewfoot by Staubitz on Canucks' blueliner and real hockey player Alexander Edler which, uh, kicks off the above video sequence. Rypien went after Staubitz, but the linesmen intervened, and not in their usual synchronized fashion. Rypien took advantage of the situation to sucker punch Staubitz over the linesman's shoulder, earning an extra minor penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct. As the officials tried to separate the two Rypien went apeshit, getting into a shoving match with linesman Don Henderson which is not fully covered on the video (which was showing a low angle replay of the sucker punch during some of that encounter). It seemed to take multiple individuals including a couple of teammates to finally get Rypien into the bench, only for him to suddenly lunge at a Wild fan in the first row next to the runway and briefly grab the guy with both hands. The fan appeared to be sarcastically applauding as Rypien got the boot, and possibly beaking him (reportedly said "Way to be a professional", hardly fighting words). He didn't reach over or in any way leave his own space; it was all on Rypien who went after the guy. He didn't throw any punches but he made a damfool of himself, for the third time in under a minute.

Another interesting take on the incident was that of noted Canucks' fan and terminal homer John Garrett. Check this out:

Not the first time I've heard Garrett automatically assume that it's the fan that's in the wrong, nor that I've heard him add gratuitous insults like the beer comment here. Nor for that matter is John Garrett the only media type who lets slip his true attitude towards fans from time to time. Talk about unprofessional.

Anyway, while Rypien is the major culprit here and will be the one called to account, here are a few more who can at least be called into question:

  • Brad Staubitz, for his cheap slewfoot of Edler.
  • The linesmen, for getting in the way when a simple fight may well have cleared the air.
  • The referee for totally undercalling the series of infractions. No slewfoot call on Staubitz, only 2 and 10 for the sucker punch, no misconduct for the contact with the linesman, nothing whatsoever for the assault on the fan. What the hell were the refs doing out there? Both of them!
  • John Garrett for being a douchebag showing his true colours.
  • The NHL for their total failure to address the situation and do some damage control. Nothing at all until today, and then not much more than no comment. How about an immediate "There is no place in our game for inappropriate contact with fans. Period."
  • Roberto Luongo for letting in 6 goals on 18 shots and causing Rypien to be in a bad mood.

OK, just kidding on that last one, Nucks fans. I'm actually inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a couple of the involved parties:

  • Wild security, who failed to get the portable tunnel in place. That is usually in place for the end of a period, but this was an incident that happened mid-period, right in front of the bench, with elapsed time from misconduct call to Rypien heading down the tunnel being literally a few seconds. It's not like he was escorted across the ice from the penalty box, it was literally push him through the gate and get him out of here as quickly as possible. Just not quickly enough.
  • Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who tried to defuse the situation by following Rypien down the tunnel, then stapled his ass to the bench for the rest of the game despite his eligibility to play in garbage time. That situation could have escalated even more, and such a debacle was avoided by the actions of AV, rather than by the referees charged with controlling the game. I shudder to think how Marc Crawford would have dealt with a situation like this one.

It's an interesting exercise to compare the different takes on the incident at our sister SBN sites Nucks Misconduct and Hockey Wilderness. The former is of course populated by Canucks fans so you have to take what's said there with a pillar of salt. ;) I thought it would be interesting to repeat their poll here on a more neutral site (where we hate both the Wild and the Canucks. I've changed the numbers slightly to avoid overlapping.

In short, this is another black eye on the NHL, which failed to control its players or its playing environment, improperly officiated a fractious game, and then did not respond appropriately on an official basis from the league office for far too long. A bad show all the way around.

As for that suspension? I say 2 games for the sucker punch, 20 for abuse of official, and 200 for going after the fan. That oughta do it. Yeah, I know, I'm no Canucks fan, but there's absolutely no room for that in our game.

What do you think?