If you play hockey the “Bruins’ way” – with the right combination of grit and physicality – the odds are opposing teams’ fans make you a target.
Actually, that typically goes for whatever organization you play in. Nonetheless, at every level of the game there’s an expectation that you won’t retaliate against the fans with the same amount of physicality you use to confront other players.
That’s why the situation with Vancouver’s Rick Rypien and the Minnesota fan has become the talk not only of the national media but also NHL dressing rooms across the league.
“I think that’s a tough situation,” said Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who probably leads the team in making adversarial skin crawl. “He’s in the heat of the moment. He was in a fight and then a scrum. He kind of grabbed the fan when he came off. There’s been times I would’ve loved to do that. You’ve always got to watch you’re self. You don’t want to be into trouble like that. … But I can definitely see why he would want to do something.”
Rypien reportedly has a hearing with the NHL Friday to determine the length of his suspension. Here’s a look at the incident:
Among the current Bruins, you have to figure that Marchand, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton and Brian McGrattan probably take the most heat in visiting arenas because of the way they play and their visibility on the ice. From the schoolyard to the youth rinks to pro stadiums, eyes are always attracted to size. There’s no place for someone like the 6-foot-4, 235-pound McGrattan to hide. The veteran of numerous triple-digit-PIM seasons, however, says there’s no defense for Rypien’s actions.
“There’s a pretty not-even-fine line over touching a fan,” said McGrattan. “Everybody wants to sometimes, but I think what he done was probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. You do what you do on the ice, and I think you’ve got to leave it out there when there’s other people getting involved. Those people pay good money to get those seats and stuff. For a player and reach over and grab somebody, even though he didn’t punch him, just the fact that he grabbed him I think it’s pretty stupid and hopefully the league gives the right suspension.”
McGrattan said of the most brutal fan serenades came during junior games in Northern Ontario. Thornton remembers the AHL fans in Philadelphia, at the old Spectrum, targeting him during breaks in the action.
“You heard a lot there, that’s for sure. A lot that could not be repeated,” he said. “I embrace the fans chirping. … My thing is, unless a fan gets physical, that type of thing with a fan coming in the box, that’s a different situation. But as far as chirping, they pay all that money, they can chirp all they want.”
McGrattan and Marchand also said the chirping can be motivating. In Hershey last season, the heckling even led to a new nickname for Marchand.
“There were a couple guys behind the bench just pressing me,” recalled Marchand. “They were just yapping the whole game. The glass is short enough that they can lean over. I turned around and threw some snow at them and tried to hit them a couple times. I was getting furious.
“And actually that’s when I got one of my nicknames. The boys in the room call me squirrel because they were yelling squirrel during the game and it kind of got brought down here.”
No matter how heated the yapping has been, none of Boston’s bigger targets has crossed the line to physical confrontation.
“As of right now [I havent’],” joked Marchand, “but you never know, right?”
Depending on how steep Rypien’s punishment is, you’re not likely to see another player reach out and touch someone.