Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks has been suspended six games by the NHL for an encounter with a fan on the way to the locker room. The incident happened earlier in the week against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Rypien was headed to the locker room after being assessed several minutes’ worth of penalties when he reached up grabbed James Engquist who was applauding as Rypien walked past. The Canucks were fined $250,000. Not since 1982 has an NHL player been suspended for longer than four games for making contact with a fan according to Forbes magazine.
Six games may seem harsh to some NHL fans but when players react badly to fan involvement in a game the outcome is rarely positive. Try some of these infamous encounters between fans and players of professional sports in America.
Pistons-Pacers Brawl 2004
One of the most prominent examples of NBA players going wild happened in Detroit during a game between the Pistons and Indiana Pacers. Officials called off the game 45.9 seconds from completion as Ron Artest and fellow teammate Stephen Jackson took their brawl to the fans at the Palace according to ESPN.
Artest was on the scorer’s table when he was struck by a beverage cup thrown by a fan and then he charged into the stands. After several fights broke out in the stands, Ron Artest got in a final punch as he was headed to the locker room and a fan approached him. Indiana ended up winning the game 97-82. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season in what has been deemed one of the worst fan/player altercations ever.
Bruins-Rangers Brawl 1979
The Boston Bruins had just defeated their heated rivals New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden 4-3 when a fan got involved in an on-ice fight. Frank Beaton of the Rangers and Al Secord of the Bruins were fighting in a corner when a fan reached across the glass partition and punched Stan Jonathan of the Bruins who came over and got involved between the players.
When Jonathan raised his stick to whack at a fan someone grabbed it and then all but one of the Bruins proceeded to stands according to NHL Fight Club and the New York Times. Suspensions ranged from six to eight games and fines totaled a mere $500.
Dodgers-Cubs Brawl 2000
When the Los Angeles Dodgers were victorious over the Chicago Cubs 6-5 the game-winning three-run homer by Todd Hundley was all but forgotten. When a Cubs fan reached over and stole the hat of catcher Chad Kreuter in the bullpen and then hit him, the Dodgers took the fight to the stands including all-star player Gary Sheffield according to Sports Illustrated.
Three fans were arrested for disorderly conduct after the game was delayed 10 minutes. The previous year saw Cubs fans get rowdy by throwing objects onto the field against the Colorado Rockies and 75 fans were thrown out of the ballpark.
Outcome for Canucks
Rypien’s suspension should come as no surprise. Rypien is a tough defensive player who doesn’t score many goals but is a team leader for the Canucks. Luckily it’s early in the season and Rick Rypien will have plenty of games in which to make amends to his team.
Rypien should have controlled his anger better. All the fan was doing was clapping and surely he can expect that not all hockey fans will agree with hockey players. There was no excuse for Rypien’s altercation whatsoever.
Associated Press Report, “Canucks’ Rypien suspended for six games”, Forbes.com.
Associated Press Report, “Carlisle: ‘I was fighting for my life out there'”, ESPN.com.
ESPN News Services, “Suspensions without pay, won’t be staggered”, ESPN.com.
NHL Fight Club, “30 Years Ago Today: Bruins Invade The Stands At MSG”, NHLFightClub.com.
Seminara, Dave, “Over the Glass and Into Hockey Lore”, NYTimes.com.
Associated Press Report, “Dodgers players brawl with fans in win over Cubs”, CNNSI.com.