NEW YORK — The NHL handed Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien a six-game suspension Friday for making physical contact with a spectator during a game in Minnesota earlier this week.
The incident occurred at 13:38 of the second period on Tuesday night. After leaving the ice, Rypien was on his way to the dressing room when he briefly grabbed a fan who was applauding at the railing.
Rypien was given an indefinite suspension a day after the 6-2 loss and met with league officials at the NHL’s New York office on Friday morning.
“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 in a release. “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.”
Rypien, a 26-year-old depth player for the Canucks, will not be paid during the suspension.
The team was also fined US$25,000 as per league policy.
“We understand and respect the league’s decision today regarding Rick Rypien,” Canucks GM Mike Gillis said in a statement. “While this game is played with passion and intensity, the safety of all of our fans and players is of the utmost importance at all times. Throughout his career Rick has been well respected by his teammates, coaches, fellow players and our community.
“Rick is a valued member of our organization and we will continue to support him and all of his teammates to ensure incidents like this do not happen in the future.”
Rypien, who has nine goals and six assists in 113 career NHL games, will be eligible to return on Nov. 6 against Detroit.
The last time a player was suspended for more than four games for making physical contact with a spectator was March 20, 1982, when Canucks defenceman Doug Halward was suspended seven games for an altercation with fans.
Matthew Barnaby was suspended four games in December 2000 for an incident that looked quite similar to the Rypien altercation. While playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Barnaby got into it with a fan in the tunnel on his way to the dressing room.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi received a $1,000 fine in March 2001 after mixing it up with a fan in Philadelphia. Domi squirted the man with a water bottle from the penalty box before punching him a couple times after he pushed on the glass and fell in.
The last suspension stemming from a fan incident went to New York Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was forced to miss one game during the 2009 playoffs after throwing a water bottle into the stands in Washington.
Sports leagues are understandably sensitive when players get involved with the paying customers — particularly after the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons went in the stands and fought with fans in November 2004.
Tuesday’s incident came with the Canucks trailing 5-1. Rypien and Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz tried to square off but were separated by an official in front of the Wild bench. Rypien punched Staubitz while he was being restrained.