VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Vancouver enforcer Rick Rypien was suspended six games Friday for grabbing a fan during the Canucks’ loss to Minnesota this week.
Rypien was headed to the locker room Tuesday night after being assessed a double minor for roughing and 10-minute misconduct when he reached up and grabbed James Engquist, a fan applauding at the railing. Rypien was pulled away by teammate Manny Malhotra, and Engquist and his brother, Peter, were removed from the area.
The Canucks also were fined $25,000, as required by NHL policy.
“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. “We hold NHL players to a high standard, and there simply is no excuse for conduct of this nature.”
Rypien, who has nine goals and six assists in 113 career NHL games, will be eligible to return Nov. 6 against Detroit. He will not be paid during the suspension.
“We understand and respect the league’s decision today regarding Rick Rypien,” said Canucks President Mike Gillis. “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.
“… 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.”
The last time a player was suspended for more than four games for making physical contact with a spectator was in March 1982, when Canucks defenseman Doug Halward was suspended seven games for an altercation with fans.
“Fans come to games to get entertained and players are on the ice to entertain the fans and it’s a very unfortunate incident,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “Rick made a mistake and those are the consequences.”
Rypien and Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz, who fought in the first period, were about to square off midway through the second before being separated by the linesmen in front of the Wild bench. Rypien punched Staubitz while he was being restrained, then grabbed Engquist while entering the tunnel to the locker room.
The two teams meet again Friday night in Vancouver.
“He plays with emotion, he plays hard. It’s just too bad to see he got involved with a fan on the way out,” Staubitz said of Rypien after the morning skate. “You almost have to have an on and off switch.”
Rypien is the cousin of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien.
“You get heated in the moment and things happen,” said Wild veteran Andrew Brunette. “It’s hard to contain your emotions, but that’s a big no-no.”