ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun break down the NHL's decision to suspend Vancouver's Rick Rypien for six games following his altercation with a fan:
Burnside: Well, my friend, the long arm of the NHL law has descended upon Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien to the tune of a six-game suspension. I know you had predicted somewhere between two and 70 games (way to hedge your bets), but I figured six to eight games would be about right. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and league discipline czar Colin Campbell hit the right note with Rypien, who crossed the line, albeit briefly, in grabbing a fan in Minnesota earlier this week. Your thoughts?
LeBrun: I predicted between 5-10 games, my friend, so I was also right, but just not as prescient or precise as yourself because you had the courage to narrow your pick. I'm going to sleep fine tonight knowing Rypien received some sizable discipline, but I have to be honest and say that, if I was in Bettman's shoes, I would have gone closer to 10 games. Again, I'm OK with the six games, but believe I would have gone just a tad longer. To me, you can't understate to players that touching the paying public is completely out of bounds. Having said that, Rypien was not a repeat offender, which is important to point out.
Burnside: Whenever the league hands out supplemental discipline, we're always looking for "the message" the league is sending. Everyone knows it's wrong to maul a fan and it rarely, rarely happens. And this isn't Mike Milbury crawling up into the seats to whack a guy with his penny loafer; it was a momentary grapple. Wrong, yes. But how is the message made any clearer by suspending the guy for 10 or more games? It is what it is and the league got it right. The problem, I think, is when you try to compare this suspension with on-ice issues, like the repeated blows to the head we've seen even in the early going this season.
LeBrun: We polled fans on ESPN.com this week after the incident and 35 percent wanted "1 to 5 games" and another 35 percent wanted "6 to 10 games" with "11 or more games" and "20 or more games" receiving less than 15 percent support each. So I guess the league nailed it for the majority of fans, as well. What could have made the suspension worse is if the league considered the trifecta of events that happened in that sequence Rypien will never forget -- a late (some would say sucker) punch to Brad Staubitz when the Wild enforcer was being held down by a linesman, Rypien seeming to shove linesman Don Henderson and then the shoving of the fan as he left the ice. But we're being led to believe neither of those transgressions factored into Friday's suspension.
Burnside: Yes, not a good night for Rypien, and yet another odd incident in an early season full of oddities, including Mike Ribeiro's arrest in a Dallas-area restaurant for public intoxication, Detroit and New Jersey unable to ice full teams because of injuries and salary-cap woes and the James Wisniewski gesture toward Sean Avery, to say nothing of the head injuries around the league.
LeBrun: Quite frankly, when you look at the off-field/off-court issues in other sports, we've got it pretty good in hockey. NHL players are overwhelmingly solid citizens. This was an isolated incident with Rypien and the fan, something the league had to take into consideration in making its final judgment. There was no epidemic to stamp out. If there were, I guess 10-20 games might have come into play. All in all, I think the Rypien incident will quickly wash away from the public's mindset. There's hockey to watch.