UPDATE: Rypien has been suspended indefinitely, pending a hearing with the league.
Rick Rypien (above left) is about to learn that a professional athlete never, ever touches a fan. The Vancouver Canucks forward deserves to be suspended for at least 20 games.
Leaving the ice after a second period altercation with Brad Staubitz in Minnesota on Tuesday, Rypien attacked a fan in a Wild jersey on his way to the locker room. As he headed down the runway, which begins behind the visiting team's bench at the Excel Energy Center in Minnesota, Rypien saw the young fan applauding his exit and grabbed him by the jersey. Only when another man --presumably the young fan's brother or friend -- stepped in, did Rypien back off.
Rypien was completely out of control. Now he's going to spend a lot of time away from the rink on game nights. To be clear, the NHL -- which in this unique case will include commissioner Gary Bettman judging with discipline czar Colin Campbell -- cannot throw the book at Rypien with enough force.
The NHL simply cannot have this, not in 2010.
When Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers ignited a fight with fans in Detroit in November of 2004, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended him for the rest of the season. Stern said the following:
"We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games. Out of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separates the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."
No, what Rypien did in his momentary lapse of reason is not equal to the disgraceful sideshow produced by the Pacers and the Pistons. No, it was nothing compared to Mike Milbury and the Boston Bruins going into the stands of Madison Square Garden in 1979 and brawling with Rangers fans.
But Rypien broke the boundary. It doesn't matter if the fans heckled him or his teammates. It doesn't matter if Minnesota security was too slow to close the gate that could have prevented the action. Rypien crossed the line. This was dangerous. This was scary.
Besides an apology, Rypien should sit for 20 games to think about what he did. He should also sit for those 20 games so no NHL player ever thinks about going after a paying customer again.
Click below to watch video of the altercation: