Memo To Minnesota Wild Fan: Let The Rypien ‘Attack’ Go

October 27, 2010


The story of an angry Vancouver Canucks player grabbing a Minnesota Wild fan last week at Xcel Energy Center made for great video and plenty of sports chatter.

This incident should be so over by now … but it’s not. And I’m blaming the fan at this point for dragging things out.

First the setup: The Wild were playing at home against the Canucks when a fight broke out between Vancouver’s Rick Rypien and Wild forward Brad Staubitz. The fight ended with Rypien receiving a double minor and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The real controversy began as he was making his way off the ice en route to the team locker room. In the heat of the moment, Rypien grabbed Wild fan James Engquist by the shirt who was applauding as he said to Rypien, “Way to be professional.”

As a consequence for his actions, Rypien received a six-game suspension, his team was fined $25,000 by the NHL, he is forfeiting $18,548 of his salary and he has received plenty of bad press and public humiliation for his moment of anger.

Engquist recently received a phone call from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who offered an apology as well as dinner and tickets to another game.

In my book, that should be that. The player and his team were properly punished, the NHL apologized, the fan received a free dinner and Wild tickets as well as some fame and a cool story to tell.  James Engquist however, does not agree. He is disappointed in the punishment Rypien received and has talked about getting a lawyer to aid him in pressing assault charges against Rypien.

I think Engquist is taking this way too far. Professional athletes are only human, just like everyone else. We all at some point do something in the heat of the moment we end up regretting. Sure, Rypien made a big mistake, but it’s not like he’s getting away with it. His consequences are plenty sufficient.

There is a part of me that believes Engquist may have said more than he is letting on. I have no way of knowing this for sure, of course.

I also suspect he is digging all his recent fame and attention, which is why it doesn’t come as a shock to me he talking about a lawyer and assault charges. Engquist certainly was not harmed in this incident, he was only briefly grabbed by the shirt, making the assault charges all seem a bit too ridiculous to me.

This certainly is not the only story of bad player and fan interaction at a professional sporting event. So what is your opinion on this issue? What, if anything, should the professional sports organizations do to eliminate these issues? Do you agree with the charges Engquist is pressing or do you think he is taking it too far? What would you consider sufficient punishment for an athlete in an incident such as this?