Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien will have some extra time on his hands following an incident in which he grabbed a fan and was suspended for six games. According to Forbes, the incident that led to Rypien being suspended began during the Canucks’ matchup with Minnesota. Rypien was leaving the ice after being penalized for roughing and misconduct when fan James Engquist began applauding. Enraged, Rypien reached up and grabbed Engquist. He was pulled off the fan by a teammate. Engquist and his brother were moved to another area of the arena.
Rypien was suspended for six games without pay. He may return to action against Detroit on November 6. The Canucks were fined $25,000 for the melee. According to NHL policy, players are never to have any physical contact with fans or enter the stands. Rypien’s is the longest fan related suspension the NFL has seen since March 1982 when the Canucks Doug Halward was suspended for seven games.
While the length of Rypien’s suspension seems excessive, the NHL may be sending a message to its players that fan-player contact won’t be tolerated. Encounters between sports players and fans are nothing new. Just get a load of these infamous examples of how fans and players don’t always play well together.
Malice in the Palace as Ron Artest Goes Wild
November 19, 2004
Perhaps the most notorious encounter between players and fans happened at the Palace of Auburn Hills where the Detroit Pistons battled the Indiana Pacers. According to ESPN, as the heated game wound to a close, a brawl broke out on the court between the two teams. During the melee, Indiana’s Artest was pelted with a cup of beer thrown from the stands, whereupon he charged the stands and punched the fan he thought responsible. That started an all out brawl between players on both teams and fans in the stands. Witness the Malice in the Palace here for yourself.
Although Artest got the final punch, the NBA got the final word. In the aftermath of the chaos, nine NBA players were suspended without pay, including Artest who was suspended for the remainder of the season. Several fans were banned from attending a Pistons game- for the rest of their life. A few fans were charged in criminal court.
The NBA issued some of the stiffest penalties ever over the brawl. Though there have been altercation since then, no players have crossed the NBA’s line in the fan sand in quite the same way as Artest and company.
Maple Leaf’s Tie Domi Shows Fan He Really Is Tough
March 29, 2001
As Rick Rypien’s suspension illustrates, hockey players can easily get caught up in the aggressive nature of the game. Sometimes, they seem unable to keep their anger in check, especially when taunted by fans. As reported by the Province, Maple Leaf Tie Domi’s penalty box encounter with a fan during a meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers, led to the fan being thrown out of the arena and issued a citation by police. Early in the third period, Domi was sent to the penalty box whereupon a fan began to taunt him from the stands. Annoyed, Domi squirted the fan with water.
This did not help quell fan Chris Falcone’s distaste for Domi. Falcone leapt into the penalty box where a scuffle ensued. Domi was not penalized. You can see the encounter between player and fan here.
Shaun Ellis’ Snowy Fan Encounter Following Jets Loss to Seahawks
December 21, 2008
According to the Bleacher Report, Seattle Seahawks fans had reason to celebrate their team’s trouncing of the mighty New York Jets 13-3. As the Jets exited the field, Seahawks fans began pelting players with snowballs. Shaun Ellis was not amused. Picking up a huge chunk of snow, Ellis hurled it into the stands where it hit fans. One fan held the icy chunk over his head in victory. Ellis’ fan encounter cost him a fine of $10,000.
Can Rick Rypien Get it Together After Suspension?
To those who point to Rypien’s suspension as an overreaction by the NHL, I would argue that Rypien’s actions were an overreaction to harmless, though undoubtedly annoying, fan behavior. Rypien needs to get his act together and learn to manage his temper or he may find himself sitting out for the remainder of the season as other sports stars have.
Associated Press Report. “Canucks’ Rypien suspended for 6 games.” Forbes
ESPN News Service. “Suspensions without pay, won’t be staggered.” ESPN
“A history of violence: Best fan/player fights from the archives.” The Province
Ryan Hogan. “Classless In Seattle? Shaun Ellis Throws Snowball at Fan.” Bleacher Report